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HENRY II., King of England. 

THOMAS BECKET, Chancellor of England, afterwards Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. 
JOHN OF PAVIA, the Pope's Legate. 
WILLIAM, the King's brother. 


RICHARD DE Luci, Grand Justiciary. 
ROBERT DE BROC, brother to Ranulph. 
HERBERT DE BOSHAM, Becket's Secretary. 
FITZNIGEL, Becket's Steward. 
GRIMM, a clerk of Cambridge. 
PENDA, an English swineherd. 
ROLAND, a Norman huntsman. 
A Leech, an Officer, a Huntsman, a Herald. 
Lords, Bishops, Soldiers, Huntsmen, Servants, Monks, 
Citizens, Priests, Clerks, Becket's dependents, &c. 

MAUD, Empress of Germany, Mother of Henry II. 
ELEANOR, Queen of England. 
MATILDA, a mad woman. 

Ladies, Nuns, Servants, Wives of Becket's dependents, 









SCENE I 35. 

SCENE II ... 48. 



SCENE I 65. 

SCENE II ... '. 73. 

SCENE III ... 86. 


SCENE I 95. 

SCENE II 105. 



SCENE I 122. 

SCENE II 126- 



SCENE I. (A.D. 1162) Courtyard of the Castle of Falaise. 

(Servants and soldiers moving across stage. Enter ROLAND 

leaning on a boar spear ; he sits and cleans it, humming 

a song. Enter PENDA from Castle gate.) 

PENDA. Give you good morrow, Roland ! 

ROLAND. Ha ! old Penda ! 

Good morrow may be, but this cursed to-day 

Is slow as sleuth hound, lingering here and there. 

PENDA. Yet, as a true hound, sure to find its end. 

ROLAND. Hast seen the king ? 

PENDA. Aye, some six hours ago. 

ROLAND. Found he the quarry ? 

PENDA. He and his following 

Were in full cry. 

ROLAND. And T am limping here 

One foot before the other, as a wench 
Chooses her way in wet. 

PENDA. Is not thy hurt 

Yet healed aright ? 

ROLAND. Nay, or I were with them, 

To hear the merry chorus of the hounds, 
More musical than bells, to mark the deer 
Flirt from the quaking fern the morning dew, 
Or crash amid the branches, antlers back, 
Head high, throat quivering, the hard hoof-stroke 
Dinting the feathered moss Oh cursed hurt, 
That holds me laggard here ! 


PENDA. How came it, Roland ? 

ROLAND. On Monday last, a mere chance-medley stroke, 
A boar at bay the hounds about his chaps 
As bees in swarming foaming he, half rage, 
Half terror, pink eyes twinkling, I, alone, 
With but a knife, a silly thing a knife, 
Must needs be at him. So he with a tush, 
Rare weapons tushes, struck me here between 
The knee and ankle, bore me bleeding down, 
A limping lout. 

PENDA. How was't he came not on : 

The hounds ? 

ROLAND. Nay ! Nay ! Two were as sad as I ; 

But, as he laid himself to do my death, 
Flashed a broad spear above me, and he drew 
Backward a little, poised himself again, 
The red gouts dripping from his bristly hide, 
His foam blood-spotted ; but the ruddy blade 
Pushed by a strong hand home bade him give space, 
And smote him yet again ; so he bent low 
And stretched himself and shivered, and so died. 

PENDA. And whose the hand ? 

ROLAND. Whose but the chancellor's, 

Stout Thomas Becket's. 

PENDA. He ! The king's right hand. 

ROLAND. The king's right hand had never struck so true ; 
Though he, God bless him, is a goodly man, 
Loving the hunt and hunters. 

PENDA. Is't not strange 

My lord the chancellor should lead the chase, 
Being a churchman ? 

ROLAND. Only by the tonsure. 

PENDA. Nay ! For myself am come from Canterbury, 
Whereof my own liege master Theobald, 
Sometime archbishop, much esteeming him, 
Made him archdeacon. 

ROLAND. Priest or not a priest, 

Deacon or chancellor, whate'er he be, 
There's many a yeoman pricker of the king, 

Aye, many a huntsman, has not half his skill 

In honest woodcraft. 

PENDA. He has English blood. 

ROLAND. Nay ! Norrnan as I live. 
PENDA. Not so indeed ! 

Gilbert, his father, and the Atheling 

Edgar were of one race. 
ROLAND. A very lie ! 

His forebears fought at Hastings. 
PENDA. Standing there 

Around the Sussex dragon. 
ROLAND. Peace, thou hound ! 

Shall I not know, whose grandsire gave his blood 

To crown Duke William ? 
PENDA. That and that for thy duke ! 

Becket is English, save some Saracen blood 

Came of his mother. 
ROLAND. Sai'acen, thou sayest ? 

A very honest woman, she, of Caen. 
PENDA. Oat, out upon thee ! How thou liest now ! 

'Tis common talk ! 

ROLAND. Too common to be true ! 

PENDA. An Emir's daughter ! 
ROLAND. That for thine Emir ! 

Clodpate Saxon ! 

PENDA. Niddering Norman ! 


(They are ahoui to fight, ivhen the servants separate them.) 

IST SERVANT. Have ye a hundred hands, that so ye dare, 
Within the very compass of the court, 
Flash warring weapons ? know ye not the law, 
Whoe'er in enmity draws swoi'd, lays spear, 
Bends bow, springs whittle, on his adversary, 
Forfeits his dexter hand ! (Horns heard.) 

Ho ! there above ! 
Warders, your posts ! Perchance it is the king ! 

(Enter through the castle gate KING, DE Luci, DE MORVILLE, 
lords and huntsmen.) 



Robin he lieth abed, abed, 

Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 
A pot of good ale stands near by his head, 

Merrily sound the lusty liom ! 
But EicJiard is up and away, away, 
For a stag by his arrow must die to-day, 
Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 

The horn ! The horn ! The lusty horn ! 
Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 

Robin is lanky and loose and long, 
Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 
Richard is sturdy and stout and strong, 

Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 
Say, pretty maiden, which will you wed, 
Richard so nimble, or Robin abed ? 
Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 

The horn ! The horn I The lusty horn I 
Merrily sound the lusty horn ! 

KING. A very noble stag. 

DE MORVILLE. Indeed, my liege 

A royal hart. 

KING. Had he brow, bay and tray ? 

DE MORVILLE. Twelve tines I'll swear, my lord; a kingly 
See with what ease he slipped us. [beast ! 

KING. Aye ! The deer 

That tires old Bran and Battle there must needs 
Fly on the wings o' the wind. It were but wise 
To give him life that he may timely sire 
Sons of his courage. Let him be declared 
In town and village through the country round 
As the king's hart proclaimed. 

HERALD. Oyez ! oyez ! Forasmuch as it hath pleased our 
lord the king to spare, for his high courage, a 
I'oyal hart of great size and swiftness, know all 
men by these presents, that whosoever shall 
hurt, maim, or kill the said hart, shall for the 
same crime presently suffer death or blindness 

by the loss of his eyes, as may be the king's 
pleasure. Oyez ! oyez ! oyez ! 
(Enter BECKET in armour, with a hawk on his wrist, with him 

RICHARD LE BRETON bound, soldiers and attendants.) 
KING. Come to my arms, 

Thou king of hunters, prince of all good fellows ! 

Nay ! never lout the knee ! Too glad the hour 

For idle courtesy that brings thee back. 
BECKET. My lord ! 
KING. This very day we needed thee. 

Hast heard ? A royal hart ! And he hath 'scaped, 

Gone, by my soul ! Had'st only thou been there, 

Were no such bungling. What's thy sorcery, 

That at thy leading hounds have truer scent, 

Horses new wind, and spurs a sharper point ? 

'Tis pity that thou art my chancellor, 

Since heav'n hath granted thee such forest skill 

As made a ranger's fortune. 
BECKET. Good my lord, 

I pray thee pardon me ; what skill I have . 

Is born but of the passion of the chase 

By long unskilful striving. Shall we go 

To-morrow, Sir, to hunt this royal hart, 

And strip him of his autlered majesty 

To deck thy halls. 
KING. Nay ! Nay ! He is proclaimed. 

And so, because my chancellor is idle, 

Is king o' the forest. 
BECKET. Idle ! Nay, my liege, 

I bring you back a boar, which many a day 

Has held high riot on the country side, 

Uprooting crops, down-treading houses, aye, 

And churches, till the forest where he lay 

Was man-forsaken ; but this fearsome beast 

Is two-legged, tall, and moves articulate tongue. 
KING. Richard le Breton ? 
BECKET. Aye, my lord ! We heard, 

Some two days since, he harboured in a wood ; 

" This is a noble hunting," so thought I, 


And thus we laid us on his slot, and found 

A sounder, as I live, sows, piggerlings, 

A very squeaking brood. So he, the boar, 

Set his stiff bristles, up, and charged at us ; 

But one or two stout blows have changed him so, 

That humble as a village ring-snout porker, 

He grunts submission. 

KING. Bid them bring him here. 

(RICHARD LE BRETON is brought forward under escort.) 
Is this the man who for so long a day 
Has breathed oppression, put away all pity, 
Beating my people down with iron mace, 
And robbed the fairest dukedom of my realm 
Of all its beauty ? Art thou knight or squire ? 

LE BRETON. A knight, my lord. 

KING. Foul fall such chivalry ! 

How long art thou a robber ? 

LE BRETON. Since the year 

That made thee ruler. 

KING. Dost thou bandy words ! 

Know'st thou thy life doth tremble on my tongue 
And quavers to its ending ? 

LE BRETON. Nay, my lord ! 

I tremble not, my life hath lain too long 
Upon the sword. Yet, e'er thou speak the sentence, 
Hear me, and I will words of import breathe 
Into thy secret ear. 

KING. Speak on ! 

LE BRETON. I said 

Thy secret ear. 

KING. My lords, I pray you pass 

Into the castle, I am there anon. 

(All turn to leave.) 
Stay, Becket ! 

LE BRETON. Sir, I speak not if he stay. 

KING. Shall I to please thee banish mine own self, 
My second heart, my truest ear, my friend ; 
Speak on before my lord the chancellor, 
0*, by my soul, thou ne'er shall speak again. 


LE BRETON. E'en as tliou wilt, iny lord. 

Is not thy style 

Henry the Second, King of England's realm, 

The Duke of Normandy, Count of Toulouse, 

Of Anjou, of Touraine and Gascony, 

Lord of Guienne, of Aquitaine, Poitou, 

Count of La Marche, the Limousin, Auvergne, 

The King almost of France ? 

Is Brittany 

So small a corner that thou need'st it not ? 
KING. What meanest thou ? 
BECKET. Nay ! hear him not, my liege ! 

He is a devil, has the devil's tongue 

To tempt to evil. 
LE BRETON. Conan is our duke : 

He has an only daughter, thou a son 

To mate with her ; and is my single life 

Too high a price to pay for such success ? 
BECKET. My lord, I pray you let this thing go by. 
KING. Not so, I have a dream. 
LE BRETON. And dreams grow fast 

To great realities. 

BECKET. Let it rest a dream. 

KING. Stay ! Let me hear him. Who art thou who dar'st 

To so suggest ? 
LE BRETON. I, e'en as I stand here, 

Am Couan's brother, under ban of church. 
BECKET. And so accursed, thou son of harlot mother, 

Spawn t)f adultery ! My lord, why waste 

Diamonds on daws ? 
LE BRETON (aside). Thou shalt have answer, too, 

But not as yet. 
KING. If I, as thou supposest, 

Tend to this thing, what is thy pow'r to sway 

Duke Conan's will ? 
LE BRETON. My lord, he loves me well 

And trusts me. 

(Aside) . Dost thou smile, lord chancellor ? 

That smile may cost thee dear ! 


He is so old 

He dares not venture on the wrack of war ; 
And so tliou wilt befriend him, comfort him, 
Unto the grave in peace, of what comes after 
How should he care when sleeping in the tomb ? 
Give me my life : I will to Brittany, 
I" am not loved there, but am held in fear, 
And I will win my lord's and brother's mind 
Unto this marriage. 

BECKET. Sathanas, avaunt ! 

Oh ! seest thou not, my lord, the dev'lish wile 
Glossed over by the smoothness of his tongue ? 
This man, this so-called knight, a very robber, 
The murderer of children, whose delight 
Holds its high revelry in shedding blood, 
This bastard felon, whose foul footsteps blight 
The cursed earth which bears him, who has dared 
To lift his aweless sacrilegious hand 
Against the sainted ministers of heaven, 

KING. Art thou not hasty, Thomas ? 

BECKET. In good zeal ; 

Who knows no God, no law, save such as binds 
Thieves unto thieves, would call thee brother thief, 
And in the hope to mask his knavery 
Behind the screen of his accomplices, 
Would make the whole world traitor. 

Let him hang, 
And sweeten earth although he taint the air. 

KING. Nay ! Thomas ! Thomas ! 

BECKET. King ! Be thou a king ! 

Tread no such hidden ways, dare in the light, 
And of thy daring reap a high reward, 
But touch not foulness, lest thy hands be foul ! 
Sell not the awful majesty of justice, 
Thy birthright and thine honour, for a price 
Paid by a knave ! 

KING. A knave may serve a king. 

What if a stain of rust be on a sword, 
E'en of blood-rust, is not the steel as good ? 


What if a little blemish soil a crown, 

The crown is golden ? That the path is dark 

I know in truth, but must we keep good roads 

And broad roads only, then we stay at home 

And watch the others clamber. 
BECKET. Hear, my lord ! 

The kite is caged, and wilt thou set him free, 

Upon the vain desire and aspiration 

That he may cut a path in the empty air 

Unto the eagle's nest ? 
KING. Right in the main ! 

In skilful hand a very kite may serve 

To strike a heron. 

BECKET. Better wring his neck. 

LE BRETON (aside). Set me my foot upon thy neck, my lord, 

And I'll disjoint it quick. 
BECKET. What is this counsel ? 

Naught but was burning in thine heart before, 

Naught but was patent to a purblind eye ! 

It were not well that such as he should prate 

Of swaying dukes and kings ; and over all 

So vile a thing has not the right to live, 

A pois'nous toadstool on a dunghill blown ; 

Crush him amidst his fcetor ! 
KING. Instruments 

Are to their uses fitted, swords are noble 

And pitchforks foul. Enough ! 

(To LE BRETON). Swear thou to me 

Obedience and loyal fealty 

As thy liege lord, and pay upon thy knees 

Due homage as my vassal, so shalt thou 

Retain from me thy lordships and thy life. 
LE BRETON. I am my lord's most humble willing man 

In all obedience. 
KING. Here ! varlets, here ! 

Unbind the knight. 
(LE BRETON kneels and places Ms hands between those of the 

LE BRETON. I, Richard called the Breton, 


Lord of Keitvaec, peer of Brittany, 
Do homage to thee, Henry, as liege lord ; 
Thy quarrels are my quarrels, and thy foes 
Are mine, and I am thine, thy knight and man, 
So help me God ! 

KING. And I accept thine oath. 

Go now and seek some better cheer for thee 
Within the castle. 

LE BRETON (aside). 'Scaped by a hair ; if ever, 

Becket, it be my turn, see thou to it. 
(Exit into castle). 

KING. Thomas, art sad ? 

BECKET. My lord, this is not well, 

And cannot bear good fruit. Now hast thou sold 
Thy royal majesty and sacred trust : 
How art thou fallen. 

KING. Peace, good Becket, peace ! 

Am I so foolish, be thou kind to me ; 
If I have fallen do thou stoop to me : 
It is a weary thing to bear the sword. 

BECKET. An empty thing to bear the sword in vain ! 
There never yet was evil sown is secret, 
But it in secret grew, and waxing tall, 
O'ershadowed ev'ry good, and blasted life 
Like fabled poison-tree ; and this thing shews 
So hideous now, in its own time shall be 
More dang'rous yet. Alas ! a happy age 
Is little safe in lusty manhood's keeping, 

KING. Tush, tush, my lord ! Come in and doff thine arms. 
Has aught unwise or wild 'twixt thee and me 
Stood from the earliest days, when Theobald, 
The old archbishop, brought thee in his train : 
Dost thou remember ? On a limping horse, 
His cloak for saddle, rode a careworn scholar, 
His face as long as here to the castle gate, 
And pinched and worn. 

BECKET. A very dolorous squire, 

So hungry-looking that the yapping curs 
Begged not of him, in suit of rusty gray, 

KING. With something in his face which shewed him trusty, 


And something iu his heart that called mo friend : 
Cans't thou remember ? 

BECKBT. Aye ! my gracious lord ; 

And that same trusty heart is ever thiue ; 
Though thou be king and I a thing of naught, 
Ever betwixt us is a noble friendship. 

KING. Yes ! and so shall be. 

BECKET. As I pray, my lord. 

(Exit KING into castle.) 

BECKET. How is't he loves me ? In a meaner man 
'Twere policy or statecraft to become 
The bosom friend of England's chancellor ; 
But Henry, were he knave or English thrall, 
Might never stoop to gather fortune thus. 
Aye ! he does love me ! For some skill in chase, 
Some silly ease to aim the feathered shaft, 
Some service done him in the shock of war ; 
'Tis strange ; and I love him, e'en at his worst, 
When rage unchecked, may-be invincible, 
Distorts his better senses, as the blood, 
Which in another man had swelled the cheek, 
Confined within the furnace of his heart 
Leaves all his visage wax. Hath friendship chains 
To knit the poles ? More deep than ocean seas, 
Higher than mountains, huger than the earth 
Parts him and me. 

(Enter RANULPH DE BEOC. They low.) 

Here's one would be my friend. 

RANULPH. Give you good den, my lord. 

BECKET. To you, my lord. 

RANULPH. I pray 

How fares the king ? 

BECKET. The queen ! 

RANULPH. The king, my lord ! 

BECKET. As well as thou wilt let him, better far 
Than thou could'st wish him. 

RANULPH. Nay? my lord, not so ! 

I honour and I love the king. 

BECKET. The queen ! 

RANULPH. But more 


Would serve thy lordship : ray poor arm and aid 
Are ever at thy service,; for thy smile 
I would adventure aught. 

BECKET. I need thee not. 

RANULPH. Most gentle lord, a very sorry answer 
To one who offers thee 

BECKET. That I would not. 

RANULPH (aside). Open report and common rumour runs 
That some mad fancy has possessed the king 
To throne this man archbishop it were well 
If I could earliest win some favour from him. 
My lord ! 

BECKET. I hear thee not. 

RANULPH. Why scorn 

My heartfelt homage ? 

BECKET. Out upon the dross ! 

Give thou thy homage where thy heart is giv'n, 
And look the king be deaf and blind against 
That homage and thy treason ! Go, my lord, 
Go where thou are desired ! 

RANULPH (aside). May Fortune's wheel 

Swiftly and sudden send thee rolling down ; 
Be mine the hand to give the starting push 
To thine abasement. (Exit RANULPU.) 

BECKET. Foul ! Foul ! Oh, most foul ! 

Louis the first perchance, then Saladin, 
Then Geoffrey comes, and Henry Geoffrey's son, 
And now a nameless and unnumbered host 
Of whom this man is held the titular chief : 
And she the Queen ! Not Poitou nor Guienne, 
Nor all the crowns of all her dukedoms giv'n 
To mate the crown of England, can erase 
The stain is bound within her wedding ring. 
Pass, thou uncleanly fraud ! It matters not, 
For if not thou, another : 'Tis not love, 
This thing without a name, for love I knew : 
Knew, suffered, slew, and laid it in the grave, 
The barren grave, of all that might have been. 



SCENE II. The Queen's lower at Falaise. 
(The Queen seated, her ladies about her.) 

IST LADY (reading). "And thus he, soiled in 'scutcheon, name 

Dishonoured died for her who loved him not." [and arms 
QUEEN. Enough, Alicia : 'tis a piteous tale, 

And one to be remembered ; close the book. 

This spring air breeds in me a drowsiness 

Which will not be denied, a little while, 

I pray you, leave me. 

LADIES (rising). Madam! (Exeunt.) 

QUEEN. Ladies ! Ah ! 

At last alone ! Their little childish babble 

Frets me to rage ! Spotless Sir Galahad ! 

Spotless forsooth ! And false Sir Launcelot ! 

I could not love him : Fool, ho would be loved ! 

Their timid rivulet of poor conceits 

Mocks at the ocean of a passionate love. 

And Guinevere so sad ! It sickens me ! 

Sad she, when she was loved by such a man. 

Pale chattering jays ! Is not a step on the stair ? 

Hist ! Banulph ! Banulph ! Wherefore comes he not ? 

Has Henry wakened from his am'rous dream 

Of her has last usurped fair Clifford's place 

To play the jealous ? Tush ! He has Guienne 

And all the duchies of my appanage ; 

He wants no more. Hark ! Hark ! A step at last ! 

'Tis he ! Ranulph ! 

(Enter RANULPH DE'BROC by a secret door.) 
RANULPH. My Queen ! 

QUEEX. No more than that ? 

RANULPH. All that thou wilt when fitter time shall serve ; 

Now nought but warning. Becket hath learned our tale. 


QUEEN. Becket hath learned our tale ! The man-at-arms 
With head as thick as is his battle-helm ; 
A hunter with an eye for hawks and hounds, 
The savage lord who never loved a woman, 
Shall he guess aught that I would hold concealed ? 

RANULPH. Madam, he spies us. 

QUEEN. Nay ! Thou art bewrought ! 

Am I a tiercel that he eye my flight ? 

RANULPH. But now I met him, said " How fares the king ? 
" The queen " said he, and in continuance 
Girded at thee ; " Go " at the last he said, 
" Go, where thou art desired." 

QUEEN. Art sure of this ? 

RANULPH. Mine own ears heard it. 

QUEEN. Said he more ? 

RANULPH. Aye ! more ; 

But not so much his speech had poison in't 
As had the speaking, something in his voice, 
His look, his gesture. 

QUEEN. Yes ! I know the man : 

He bears an eloquence in ev'ry limb : 
Spoke he in whispers ? 

RANULPH. Nay ! That all might hear. 

QUEEN. In the open court ? 

RANULPH. In the open light of day. 

QUEEN. Was any there ? 

RANULPH. Nay, none ! 

QUEEN. It matters naught 

Since his intent the same, to blemish me. 
Shall ev'ry low-born braggart whom the king 
May chance to choose, be free to point his jest 
With any royal name ; shall sparrows chirp 
Scorn at an eagle ? 

RANULPH. Madam, have a care ! 

Becket is chancellor, perhaps archbishop. 

QUEEN. Ha ! Is it so ? Whence hast it ? 

RANULPH. Wide repute 

Declares it true. 

QUEEN. The greater be his fall. 


BANULPH. The king's best friend. 

QUEEN. The king thou stumblest there ? 

RANULPH. I pause, lest I should stumble. 

QUEEN. How hast thou 

A thousand times entreated me to show 
Some deed of emprize, some most hazardous stroke, 
In doing which thine arm should prove thy love : 
Kill Becket ! 

RANULPH. Lest he warn the king ? 

QUEEN. Not so ! 

He will not. His is not a courtier's tongue 
To fame dishonour. Kill him, that he dared 
Lightly to speak of me. 

Hist ! Some one comes ! 

Get thee behind the arras ! When thou may'st 
Pass from the chamber ; we will meet anon. 

LADY. The Empress, madam ! 

(Enter Empress MAUD.) 

QUEEN. Welcome, lady mother ! 

EMPRESS. My blessing on thee. 

QUEEN. Pray thee, madam, sit. 

EMPRESS. Aye ! Having much to say. I am not old, 
But ere my age my toils have weakened me, 
And these same feet which bore me swift from ill, 
Now scarce can creep upon their way to heaven. 

QUEEN. God keep thee with us, madam ! 

EMPRESS. Nay, my daughter; 

Pray rather that His goodness give me rest ! 
A weary road has this poor body travelled, 
And suffered strangely. Ere my childhood passed 
A German Empress ; in my riper years 
An English prisoner and England's queen, 
Ruler to-day, a fugitive to-morrow ; 
And ever forced, for honour of my race, 
To play a manly part in woman's^ weeds. 

QUEEN. And ever great in thy most fell misfortune, 
Grand in thy majesty of ill-success ; 
A queen discrowned, but still in all a queen ! 
Madam, we honour thee. 


EMPRESS. Tush ! Tush ! The gaud 

Of this world's honour mocks my withered brow, 

And all the end my weary life has won 

Is this, to wish it ended, to repose 

Upon the bosom of our mother Church. 
QUEEN (aside). How doth herself belie her : soul of fire 

And heart of steel, she rests but in the grave. 
EMPRESS. But not as yet : I bear a thought about me 

Which as I pray infects my very prayers 

With human longing. 
QUEEN (aside). It was ever so. 

A little time to earth, then all to heaven. 
EMPRESS. 'Tis this that haunts me ; Henry is the king 

And needs me not, but he the fair-haired boy, 

My gentle William, darling of my age, 

Is landless, poor as any petty knight 

Who sells his sword for wages. 
QUEEN. He who is 

Richer in blood than gold is poor indeed. 
EMPRESS. More wretched than a beggar, whose estate 

Lies in another's purse ; he dares not ask 

And silent has not. 
QUEEN. But thy plan ? 

EMPRESS. 'Tis this ; 

De Warrenne, Earl of Sussex, has a daughter, 

A child as yet, sole heiress of his name ; 

Noble by birth she is, the Conqueror 

Her sire as ours. 

QUEEN. A scheme most excellent ! 

EMPRESS. Aye ! but it limps : for this same strain of blood, 

Which makes her not unworthy of my son, 

Is by the Church adjudged to be too near. 
QUEEN. The Church ! Whence hast this, madam ? 
EMPRESS. From the king. 

QUEEN. And whence had he ! 
EMPRESS. From Becket. 

QUEEN. Ah ! 

EMPRESS. The man 

Of all the world he trusts : too much methinks 


I like it not, to give the helm of state 

Unto so vile direction. 

QUERN. Becket saith ? 

EMPRESS. Naught that can matter, being what he is, 

Rather a boon-companion to the king 

Than holding weighty office. 
QUEEN. Hast not heard 

The king's intent ? 
EMPRESS. Of Becket? 

QUEEN. Aye ! He means 

That this same boon-companion be the Primate. 
EMPRESS. What ? Thomas Becket, half a Saracen, 

Wholly a churl, an upstart mongrel knave ! 

Shall hands which might be proud to hold a stirrup 

Uprear the crozier of the noblest see 

Of Christendom ? 

QUEEN. Such is the royal purpose. 

EMPRESS. It shall not be ! 
QUEEN. Madam, the bitterest hate 

Born in thy bosom of this ill-starred news 

Ranks not with mine. 
EMPRESS. Hate him ! May ev'ry curse 

Mine age hath heard beat down and break upon him ! 

Peace ! Peace ! He dare not. 
QUEEN. Madam, he dares all : 

And, once installed on Canterbury's throne, 

Is out of reach ; like Jove himself shall sit 

Above our heads, with awful lightnings armed. 
EMPRESS. Now is the palace of my fondest dreams 

Crumbled to dust. 

QUEEN. To dust, if Becket live. 

EMPRESS. Alas, that I the daughter of a king, 

And a king's mother, live to see this day ! 

Now is the fav'rite flower of my intent, 

With happy promise od'rous, in the bud 

Choked by this parasite ! A very weed, 

Uplifted from the mire of London streets, 

The ranker for its breeding ! Let us hence ! 

Hence to the king ! 



QUEEN. Madam, if my poor aid 

Can aught advise thee, or can aught relieve, 
'Tis thine for asking : Though indeed I fear 
The serpent Becket hath such poison breathed 
Into my husband's ear, that love hath died 
Upon the hearing. 

EMPRESS. Daughter, let us go ! 

QUEEN. Go thou, and I will follow : so the king 
Shall deem us each moved by particular zeal, 
And not by compact : He, would drive a nail, 
Presses not once with all his utmost strength, 
But with successive strokes he taps it in 
And fixes firmly. (Exit Empress.) 

I, what is't to me, 

That William languishes for lack of gold ? 
But ev'ry tool must do a shovel's work 
When one would mine. The king will not give way, 
I know it well ! Yet never seed was sown 
But something sprang of it, and this, so barren, 
So wild a hope, may yield me vengeance yet. 



SCENE III. The great hall in the castle, Falaise. 
(Ds Luci and DE MORVILLE.) 

DE Luci. The king holds fast. 
DE MORVILLE. Aye ! with a royal hand. 

DE Luci. Six castles, said'st thou ? 
DE MORVILLE. Aye ! Six noble castles : 

The bishop prayed him stay and hear him out, 


Twisting excuses and apologies 

Into a rope should draw him from his purpose ; 

But Henry smiled and said, " Lord Winchester, 

Give unto each his own, to me the sword, 

To thee the cross ; pray thou, and I will strike ! 

DE Luci. A very wise young king. 

DE MORVILLE. Seest thou not now, 

How, like a charioteer with two hot horses, 
He checks the one with the other ; doth the Church 
Fret at his bitting, loosens he a little 
The Barons' rein ; should the great lords of state 
Kick at the weighty draught, he whips the Church 
Till stretch the traces even. 

DE Luci. Ruling both 

With heavy hand. 

DE MORVILLE. Aye ! Since the nobles bore 

But ill the scutage, and if pressed had dared 
Even rebellion, made he the burden light 
By the unwilling alms of Mother Church. 

DE Luci. But how if Church and State should seize the bit, 
Uniting in their majesty of might 
Against this one man's strength ; can he withhold 
The madd'ning rush, the swift catastrophe ? 

DE MORVILLE. Aye ! Let them strain as they list ! The king 
By love of England's people, by his race, [is king 

Having some colour of the Confessor's blood ; 
For English churls and yeomen cling to him, 
'Gainst Norman earls and Norman bishops 'friend him, 
And hold the crown of England in their hands. 

DE Luci. But how comes it that thou a Norman born 
Lovest this English king ? 

DE MORVILLE. For his own self: 

E'en for his sudden rage and swift repentance ; 
Aye ! for his hasty words and fiery heart, 
And for his gay glad spirit and his laugh, 
His fearless front in battle : Can I tell ? 
I am the king's man : Should he order aught, 
Were it to dare, to suffer or to strike, 
Here is a hand is his, a head, a heart, 



E'en to damnation's end ! 

DE Luci. Here comes the king. 

(Enter KING attended.) 

KING. Well met, de Luci ! I have news for thee. 
De Morville, welcome here. 

DE MORVILLE. To serve your highness. 

KING. My lords, I have some trouble in my heart : 
Whilst we are feasting here in restful ease, 
The Welsh, like wolves emboldened by their famine, 
Have burst the barriers of their hungry hills, 
And, howling for their prey, have rent the folds 
Of Western England. 

DE Luci. Press they forward, sir ? 

KING. Aye ! Like a rising tide, so reads the tale, 
Racing against each other, wave on wave ; 
Chester stands fast, and with its walls of stone 
Breasts the rough breakers back ; but o'er the marches 
They rage and raven ankle-deep in blood. 

DE Luci. Will not my lord go thither ? 

KING. Nay ! My charge 

Lies for the present here. The eye of France 
Is ever watchful for occasion given, 
Or guard relaxed. De Luci, thou shalt go, 
And thou, de Morville. Rouse the country-side, 
Call out my vassals, levy men-at-arms, 
And hurl this naked horde of robbers back 
Into their naked mountains ; bind them there 
By such conditions as their poverty 
Or fear may furnish ! 

DE Luci. All our aim, my lord, 

Shall be to serve thee truly in this charge. 

KING. I know it, Luci : never man had friend 

(Enter BECKET.) 

Ah, Thomas, art thou there ? Come hither, Sir ! 
I have to speak with thee. Wilt pity me ? 
Wilt thank ? 

BECKET. Both if needs be, my lord. 

KING. Pity then first ! Two weary wasted hours 
My loving queen and yet more loving mother 


Preached me of thee a dreaiy homily. 
Fear not ! I would not if I could repeat 
One half their concert. 

BECKET. Sir, what said the queen ? 

KING. Ambitious art thou, Thomas, so she said, 
And treach'rous, Thomas, and unscrupulous ; 
A very snake to warm beside the hearth, 
And sting the hand that saved thee : such a thing 
As, if a man shall duly love his life 
Is scotched and killed : a greedy carrion-crow 
She called thee, Thomas, feeding on the foulest 
If it may make him fat, and so much more 
As wearies me to think of. 

BECKET. And, my lord, 

What saidst thou ? 

KING. I ? I yawned. The Empress then 

Took up the tale : A low-born upstart knave, 
And fitter for a dishclout than the Pallium. 
Now is it out ! Dost guess the reason on't ? 

BECKET. The Pallium ? 

KING. Aye ! The Pallium ! My intent 

Was to have woi'ked thy curiosity 
And slowly ope'd the question ; but it out, 
Popped like a rabbit. Wilt thou then, or no ? 

BECKET. My lord ! I pray thee 'tis a serious thing ; 
And well to be considered. 

KING. Thomas Becket, 

Wilt thou or wilt thou not, old cherished friend, 
Take from my hand the see of Canterbury ? 

BECKET. I cannot, good my lord. 

KING. Nay ! Here's no reason. 

BECKET. My lord, 'tis jest. 

KING. Thou art a churchman. 


A churchman look at me is this the head 
To bear a mitre ? Will the sober monks 
Of Canterbury take this gaudy thing 
To fill their throne ? Set me aside, my lord ! 
Deck me in steel, give me a hundred knights, 


And I will lay my spear in rest with any, 
Aye ! or with all thy foes ; bid me to ride 
Beside thee in the chase, I'll do my best 
To be the foremost ; bid me laugh with thee, 
Jest with thee, serve thee, aye ! or die for thee, 
Thou'lt never ask too much ! 

KING. Oh thou true heart ! 

How long a time is it si ace first we met ? 
What matters ? I, a stripling when thou earnest, 
Loved thee, and man I love thee ! All these years 
Have we not borne one heart the each to other, 
And loved with such a love as is most rare ? 
Such love the evil-haunted race of Anjou 
Ne'er knew before ; by some descended curse 
Each brother hates his brother, husband wife, 
And father son. 

BECKET. My lord, should I accept 

This offered honour, such a wall would grow 
'Twixt thee and me as not the love of years, 
Nor memory of kindness, nor the might 
Of truest friendship ere might learn to scale : 
A wall of glass, of such distorting power 
That none should know the other's face ; each deed, 
Whate'er the thought that prompted it, would show 
Fell as a murder : not one word of mine 
Would ever reach thee truly. 

KING. Thomas, hear me ! 

A year has passed since hoary Theobald 
Went to his rest. Through all this year I pondered 
And here stand I, a royal kingly hart, 
Sore set upon and pressed by two great hounds, 
The Church, the Barons: Sweeping wide around 
With my huge antlers have I cleared such space 
As suits my grandeur ; But they bay me close ! 
Take thou the Church's leash within thine hand, 
Shall I not vanquish the unaided lords ? 

BECKET. My lord, the question is not so resolved, 
As thou desirest and would 'st fain believe : 
Give me the leash of the Church, it is my duty 


To cheer her on, to aid her, at her need 

To shield her from thine antler. Can the hart 

Forbear to blame the hunter ? 

KING. By heav'n the thing shall be ! 

I am not used to crossing, in despite 
Of mine own will. 

BECKET. It cannot be, my lord. 

KING. It must and shall be ! Or, by the eyes of God, 
I'll strip thee to thy rags, and hunt thee hence ! 

JOHN OF PAVIA. My lord ! My lord ! Learn patience to thy 
When was a man, worthy the name of man, [heat : 
Bent from his purpose by a scolding tongue ? 
Becket, a word with thee. 

KING. Becket ! Old friend ! 

Forgive me ! I am hot thou art so hard, 
So stern and cold ; 'gainst thee I lash myself 
Into such foaming waves of impotent fury 
As pours the northern sea upon the ice, 
And to as small an end. Speak thou, Lord Legate, 
If he will hear. 

BECKET. My lord, I am all ears. 

PAVIA. That thou art called to this so high estate 
Is not a little thing of man's device, 
To be at ease dismissed or shrugged away : 
I see here somewhat of the hand of Heaven, 
Guiding thy way uplift against thy will ; 
And our most holy father of the Church, 
In whose great name I speak, bids me advise 
That if this be a cross, thou bear the cross. 

BECKET. My lord, I am not worthy. 

PAVIA. Worthy ! Alas ! 

Is any worthy ? Has any strength enough 
To bear this perilous weight in perilous times ? 
But courage, Thomas ! 

BECKET. Courage, my lord, I have, 

And confidence, save only in myself. 

PAVIA. That shall be given thee. Hear then my charge ; 
Is any weak, see that thou shelter him, 
Is any sad, 'tis thine to comfort him ! 


BECKET. Aye ! so much, as I am. 

PAVIA. As thou shalt be, 

Yet more ! For England and for England's Church, 

Against the stern oppression of the mighty, 

Be thou a bulwark ; clothe thine outward heart 

With rigid iron, be all love within ! 

Place thyself foremost in the deadly van, 

And make thy breast a corslet for the poor : 

Is any threatened, turn the shaft on thee ! 

Rule as a saint the kingdom of the meek, 

Humblest of all thyself ! 
BECKET. My lord, my life 

Was not attuned thus ; rather it ran 

In tripping numbers of the chase or war, 

In bravery of garments and of arms. 

I am no monk : How shall the cloistered cowls 

Whisper at one half soldier and half groom. 
PAVIA. Is it for us to choose the instrument, 

Or, being chosen, to deny our place ? 

Becket, go forth ! Be strong to guide the Church ! 

'Tis she who calls thee ; gird thyself to work ! 

Be glad, as I, that on no meaner man 

Her choice has fallen. 
BECKET. Meaner could not be ! 

Such as I am, I yield me to the task ; 

May Heav'n, has raised me over my deserts, 

Such as I would be give me grace to grow ! 
DE Luci (to the king.) Is this thing true I hear, my lord, that 

Hast of thy favour purposed to ordain [thou 

Becket as primate ? 

KING. It is true, my lord. 

DE Luci. I like it not. 
KING. How now, my lord ! Shall I 

Enquire the private mood of ev'ry baron 

Ere I give place to any officer ? 

What is't against the man ? 
Do Luci. Against the man, 

Nothing : against the priest as he shall be 

A thousand faults. 


KING. What now ? 

DE Luci. Ho is too strong ; 

Too set in his opinions to give up 

A jot, a tittle, of his Church's pride. 
KING. Whom wilt thou then ? 
DE Lucr. There is at home in England 

One Gilbert Foliott 

KING. A very sapless fool 

DE Luci. Bishop of London 
KING. By some accident ; 

But never more. 

DE Luci. He hoped to gain the throne 

KING. So much the more a fool. 
DE Luci. Will he give way ? 

KING. He shall ! 
DE Luci. Roger, my liege, the lord of York, 

Of olden grudge hates Thomas Becket well ; 

There will be strife anon. 
KING. Let quarrels come ! 

Becket can guard his head. 

(To JOHN OF PAVIA.) How hast thou sped ? 

Has eloquence, the statesman's battering ram, 

Prevailed against the portals of his ears, 

And taught his heart surrender ? 
PAVIA. Nay, my lord, 

Thou know'st not Becket yet ! No engine of war 

Had shocked to yielding his opinion's walls : 

Nay, rather stole I iu, a messenger, 

Whisp'ring some words of high self-abnegation. 

And now the castle parleys. 
BECKET. Yields itself 

Rescue or no rescue ! My lord the king, 

Since firmly to this undesired end 

Is bent the iron bow of thine intent, 

Needs must the quarrel fly : yet well beware, 
. Lest that the missile falling, fall it must, 

Work not upon thyself such fatal ill 

As Harold found at Hastings ! Lift me up 

If so thou wilt ; not thy whole realm in arms 


Can stay me there, nor guide me as I fall. 

KING. Wilt thou accept the office ? 

BECKET. Aye, my lord ! 

But with no word of thanks, for such a charge 
Hast thou for my good service laid on me, 
As clean forbids me ever serve thee more. 

KING. Thou dost accept ? 

BECKET. Against niy wiser will. 

I, Thomas Becket, London citizen, 
Do of the hands of this my lord, king Henry, 
Receive the feudal rights and mitred see 
Of Canterbury. 

KING. I have some matter yet : 

To-morrow at thine earliest set thy face. 
With Hugh de Morville and de Luci here, 
Unto my kingdom and thy new-found see ; 
For that most pestilent friend, the king of France, 
Late my sworn enemy, (may be again), 
Claims that so much the recent treaty hold 
As crowns my son a king at Westminster. 
(To BECKET.) This is thy duty. Thou, de Luci, bear 
To Canterbury's monks their king's advice 
That they confirm his choosing. 

DE Luci. Good my lord, 

I pray thee name another messenger ; 
I have no skill in churchwork. 

KING. Hear me, Sir ! 

Wilt thou with all thine heart and all thy might 
Secure the crowning of my son Lord Henry ? 

DE Luci. My lord, with ev'ry strain of all my strength. 

KING. See that thou use the self-same diligence 
To win the monks to their obedience, 
And at thy peril fail in this or that : 
For, by the eyes of God, I hold no less 
To Becket's miti*e than to Hem-y's crown. 
(Servants ritah in shouting " The hart ! The king's hart /" 

GRIMM dragged in, bound.) 
What have we here ? 

ROLAND. My lord ! The hart is slain ! 


KING. Is slain ! What hart ? 

ROLAND. The hart thy mercy spared, 

That which, by right of royal proclamation, 

No man may hurt and live. 
KING. Is this the man 

Who slew it ? 

ROLAND. Aye, my lord ! 

GRIMM. Not so, my lord ! 

I slew it not. 

KING. Where is thy proof ? (To ROLAND.) 

ROLAND. My lord, 

Here stands Gilles Walter, his the tale to tell. 
KING (to GILLES). Speak on ! 
IST HUNTSMAN. My lord ! I I 

KING. Speak out ! 

ROLAND. Thou fool ! 

Out with it pat ! A very timid man, 

My lord ; but now within the buttery 

His tongue clacked on as mill-wheels after rain. 
KING. Lead him to speak. 
ROLAND. Here, Gilles friend Gilles alack ! 

Is thy tongue rusty ? 
IST HUNTSMAN. My lord the king, I rose 

Out of my bed at daybreak, fed the dogs 

(Old Trusty ate but little 

ROLAND. Tush, thou fool ! 

Get on ! Get on ! 
IST HUNTSMAN. What would his highness hear ? 

At noon I saw the royal company 

Sweep by me, and I thought 

ROLAND. No matter that ! 

Come to the deer ! 
IST HUNTSMAN. Oh ! my poor wandering wits ! 

Where would'st thou have me ? 
ROLAND. Come to the deer, I say ! 

Know'st thou this man ? 

ROLAND. Hast seen him ? 


ROLAND. Where ? 

IST HUNTSMAN. In the forest. 

ROLAND. When ? 

IST HUNTSMAN. This eventide, 

Nigh at about the setting of the sun, 

And he was sitting on a mossy stone, 

And by him lay a knife this knife, my lord. 
ROLAND. The deer ! 
IST HUNTSMAN. Lay dead not ten short paces off, 

Its weasand slit by no unskilful hand. 
KING. And said he naught ? 
IST HUNTSMAN. Nothing, my lord, till I 

Laid hand to hold him, then he rose up slow, 

As half-asleep and stiffened by long sitting, 

Saying, " What matters it ? As well this way 

As by another." 

BECKET. Was there blood on the knife ? 

KING. Aye ! Was there blood ? 
ROLAND. Two sturdy digs in the earth 

Had cleaned all that. 

KING. Sirrah, what hast to say ? 

GRIMM. Nothing, my lord. 
KING. How ! Nothing ? 

BECKET. Dear my lord, 

Let me, I pray thee, reason with this man : 

Who art thou ? 
GRIMM. One who living is accursed, 

And so that death come cares not much by whom. 
BECKET. Tell me thy tale. 

GRIMM. My lord, it is too long. 

BECKET. Whence art thou ? 
GRIMM. London bore me, Grimm my name, 

A clerk of Cambridge. 

KING. Didst thou kill the deer ? 

GRIMM. I did not. 
IST HUNTSMAN. I will swear it ! See, my lord 

The deer lay here as 'twere' and he sat there 

KING. A very knavish clerk ! Come, sirrah, speak ! 

I swear nor gown nor tonsure shall deliver 


Such as thou art Speak, sirrah, speak or hang ! 
GRIMM. And if a prey to hanger's madd'ning pangs, 

I had beyond my will grown desperate, 

And seeing live flesh, good flesh, pass me by, 

Thrust to the hilt again, again ; can any 

Say that to spare a hart a man should starve ? 
KING. Nay ! Having slain the hart, thou hangest, sir. 
GRIMM. I slew him not. 
KING. Past patience, sir ! Go to ! 

Away with this so wordy prating cur, 

And hang him from the topmost battlement. 
BECKET. My lord, he is a clerk. 
KING. An honest clerk ! 

Sniffing for venison : Nay ! I warrant me, 

He is more skilled, my lord, to twang a bow 

Than whine at matins. Take him hence and hang ! 
BECKET. My lord, the Church must judge her erring sons. 
KING. What has the Church to judge of hart of grease ? 

Is ev'ry stalwart knave may chance to read, 

Or spell, or splutter through his breviary, 

To have for this the right of forestry ? 
BECKET. The Church's hand is heavy. 
KING. Aye ! But slow. 

What ! Shall this knave be judged by mother Church, 

To read ten Credos, patter an Ave, fast 

From flesh a fortnight ? Nay ! By the eyes of God, 

He tastes no flesh again ! 
BECKET. My lord, the Church 

Is like a loving mother, chastens oft 

In sorrow, not in anger ; lays her hand 

To kill the sin, but in her mercy yields 

Some leisure for repentance. 
KING. Aye ! Too much ! 

Why waste we words on such a knave as this ? 

He hangs ! (Is going.) 

BECKET. My lord ! I pray thee by the love 

Which all these years have bound us, ere I go, 

Grant me a boon, give me this forfeit life. 
KING. Aye ! Take him, body and bones ! Come, come, my 

We waste the precious hour. Here ! Music ! Wine ! [lords, 


(All sit at table except GRIMM and BECKET. Music.) 

BECKET. Didst thou slay the deer ? 

GRIMM. Not I, my lord. 

BECKET. Go ! I believe thee ! Hie thee to my steward 
And ride with me to-morrow. 

GRIMM. Gracious master ! 

For life I thank thee not ; mine is a poor, 
A tarnished remnant ; but thou hast believed 
My word for speaking, and in after years 
My gratitude shall fruit in deeds not words. 
(Exit GRIMM.) 

BECKET. Out of what marvels of unlikely metals 
Doth Heaven fashion tools to serve its ends, 
And by how strange a round of circumstance 
Are great deeds fathered ! Here stand I, a man 
Born to no favour, fostered by no power, 
Pushed to the air of courts to be a thing 
Of gilded frippery and jesting words, 
To sit a-horse beside my royal master, 
And serve his ev'ry purpose : In an hour 
He who was glad to make the table laugh, 
Must learn his eyes to weep with those who weep ; 
He who was proud to lead the foremost war 
Must doff the iron helmet for the cowl : 
And all my life to be must give the lie 
To all I was. Yet was 1 true indeed, 
Aye ! So I am ! And steel is steel, as sword 
Or ploughshare ! Noble England ! Hear me swear ! 
Through all his life, though death his guerdon be, 
Becket shall stand betwixt thy foes and thee ! 



SCENE I. (A.D. 1104) A room in Bcckct's lodgings at Northampton. 

(BECKET seated in an attitude of depression : After a pause he 
rings a bell. Enter HERBERT DE BOSHASI.) 

HERBERT. Did my lord summon ? 

BECKET. Aye ! Bring hithei' to me 

The letter of his holiness the Pope 
Anent the fatal Acts of Clarendon. (Exit HERBERT.) 

BECKET. Oh, Clarendonum ! Better were it's name 
Writ Cleri dammtm ; since the pow'rs of hell 
Gat hold upon me there ! Would that these lips, 
Ere I had fashioned them to such assent, 
Were blistered to the gums ! More weak than Esau, 
I, that am shepherd of the sheep of Heav'n, 
Sold my flock's pasture for a royal smile ; 
The Church's head, to please a king forsooth, 
Dared mortgage all the kingdom of the Church, 
And bade her sit a handmaid 'neath the throne ! 

(Enter HERBERT and GRIMM.) 
The bargain shall not hold ! That which I did 
Was wrought in sin : some angel stayed my hand 
Ere I had sealed the deed. 

GRIMM. And thus, my lord, 

Bore thee off scathless. 

BECKET. Nay ! There is the stain, 

The scandal to my name, that I have giv'n 
My word, and will not keep it. 


GRIMM. But the seal ? 

Refused ! 'Tis that which stamps the deed, 
And that is not. 

BECKET. And that shall never be ! 

This letter of his Holiness directs 
That I shall yield so much unto the king 
As may be given, saving privilege 
And credit of our order. 

HERBERT. Will not that 

Suffice king Henry ? 

BECKET. Nay ! Nor ten times so much ! 

He wills that ev'ry tittle of my office 
Shall filter through his hands and take of them 
A new direction ; so the Church whose rule 
Has guided sanctity, protected learning, 
Must at his bidding sink to be the slave 
Of royal tyranny. 

GRIMM. Thou wilt not yield ? 

BECKET. I ! Yield ! Nay, never ! For honour of the Church 
Dishonour I myself to be a liar : 
I, who have ne'er withdrawn my plighted word, 
Nor ever checked to serve its full intent, 
Renounce it clean : I would not, had T sworn 
To do this thing, so vilify my office 
To mine own ease. Come scandal, calumny, 
Death, or a prison, as I am, I stand. 

HERBERT. Though all belie thee now, in future time 
Thy name shall hold the love of all good men. 

BECKET. Enough ! If any from the king demand, 
Yield them admittance. 

(Exeunt HERBERT and GRIMM.) 

Yes ! Most strange it was 
How at the moment that I held the seal 
Poised to impress, some messenger of hcav'n 
Seemed to arrest my hand : Be false my word, 
My human word, but be the sacred sign 
Of Canterbury's see unsullied still. 
(Enter HERBERT.) 

HERBERT. My lord, there come some envoys from the king. 


BECKET. Admit them. 

Dear, my lords, I greet you kindly. 

ALL. Our greetings to thee. 

BECKET. Come ye from the king ? 

LEICESTER. His highness sends us ; furthermore, desires 
That our discourse, how poor soe'er may be 
Our rend'ring, have the like respect from thee, 
As though the king himself did speak the words. 

BECKET. My lord, I honour you, both for yourselves, 
And in your office. 

LEICESTER. Thus our message runs : 

Touching the sometime Acts of Clarendon, 
We Henry, King of England, to thee Thomas, 
Archbishop, greeting, charge thee that to-day 
Before the assembled bishops, lords, and peers, 
Within our royal castle at Northampton, 
Thou do appear, and publicly affix, 
In order due, the seal of Canterbury 
To these ordained and settled constitutions. 

BECKET. My lord, bear back my answer to the king, 
As Balaam's unto Balak ; I will come. 

CORNWALL. Peace to thy jesting ! Shall my lord the king 
List to such jargon of the troubadours ? 

BECKET (aside). (Again a miracle, the ass hath spoken.) 
Thus is my message ; come I surely will, 
But that is given me that must I speak, 
And as appointed me so shall I do. 

CORNWALL. To me the matter is not dim : The king 
Requires thy seal ; then give it ! 

BECKET. Noble lord, 

I am not here to offer explanation, 
Nor thou to ask it. Bear unto the king 
My answer. 

LEICESTER. Thomas, I have known thee long, 

And ever loved thee, now no matter why ; 
Bethink thee that this message has no promise 
Of peace for thee or comfort for the king. 



'Tis hard, I know, to so abate thy pride 
As suits the royal humour ; have not I, 
In mine own fortune, felt the feudal hand 
Press heavy on me ? But, regard this thing 
From what aspect you may, it's only end, 
Though years of strife and hot contention swell 
It's dire duration, is at last to yield. 

BECKET. My lord, those years may grow eternity, 
And find me still the same. 

LEICESTER. Oh, stubborn heai't ! 

Who art thou, that thou standest 'gainst the king, 
Against the peers, e'en 'gainst thy brother priests ; 
Are thou so strong to stand thyself alone ? 

BECKET. Even as Joseph's sheaf amongst his brothers' 
Stood upright. 

LEICESTER, Yield thou must ! As well to-day 

As then, whene'er it be : the longer held 
The harder losing pow'r. 

BECKET. I shall not yield ! 

Touching this question of thine own, thou gavest 
Something of thine, thy children's, some estate 
By royal hand bestowed and now resumed : 
My case stands not so ; what the king hath sown 
That let him reap ; 'twas mine, 'tis his, I give it. 

LEICESTER. Thou yieldest, then ? 

BECKET. Nay, never ! What he craves 

Is neither mine to give nor his to take ; 
The timeworn honour of our holy Church, 
The rule of Christendom, the sacred rights, 
The charge to guard the weak, and check the strong ; 
These are the might and majesty of Heav'n, 
And may not thus be passed from man to man. 

DE Luci. Must not the Church, like a well-ordered army, 
Include within her strength all ranks of men 
United by obedience ? Can the war, 
We daily wage against the Paynim world, 
Prevail unless we fight with discipline ? 
Some must be subject ; should the masses rule, 
Where were the followers ? 


BECKET. 'Twixt thy thought and mine 

Interpretation only builds a wall : 
I hold this true ; nay ! more, the very truth ; 
In all is earthly serve an earthly king ; 
Be loyal to the death ! But this I add, 
In all is closest to the heart, and lies 
Within our higher nature, all that lifts 
The man above the brute, the germ immortal 
Which frets within this mortal prison-house, 
In high desires, in noble aims and ends, 
By so much of our pow'r as frees the slave, 
By so much of our wealth as aids the poor, 
In Faith, in Hope, in Truth, and Charity, 
Serve we another, Him who made the king ! 

DE MORVILLE. Listen then, thou, who dar'st to set at naught 
The royal statutes and the king's commands ; 
These hands, these arms, these bodies, are the king's, 
And we are ready at his word to right 
His ev'ry wrong, and work whate'er he will. 
What he commands, to us is law and justice, 
What he desires, we force from those denying : 
Retract, proud prelate ! Yield thee to his will ! 
So may'st thou 'scape the lightning ; have a care 
Lest it may strike thee wav'ring ! 

BECKET. Railing knight ! 

Learn this, I waver not. Pass out from here ! 
Come not again, till time hath taught thy lips 
To rate less loudly ! (Exit HUGH DE MORVILLE.) 

Leicester, thou hast done 
Thy painful errand in all courtesy : 
The love of God go with you. 

LEICESTER. Oh, my lord, 

May there not yet be peace ? 

BECKET. On such terms, no ! 

(Exeunt, except BECKET, GRIMM, and HERBERT.) 

BECKET. This war of woi'ds and jangle of contention 
Fevers my weary body. See ! my hand, 
Which oft has borne a lance the whole day long 
As 'twere a twig, now trembles like a leaf. 



If any need me, call ! I go to lay 

My pray'rs for strength before the throne of Heav'n. 

(Exit BECKET.) 
GRIMM. My lord is over-zealous, sleeps but little, 

And will not eat save of necessity, 

Wasting the flesh, the while his eager soul 

Wears it within. 
HERBERT. And hides his rig'rous fare 

Beneath a show of luxury and pomp, 

Such as he deems is due before the world 

To match the grandeur of his priestly office. 
GRIMM. A man may fast, though served on golden plate, 

And cloth of gold may hide the shirt of hair : 

What ostentation our dear lord doth show 

Serves but to mask his noble charity. 
HERBERT. Aye ! For the feasts the world deems sumptuous, 

Set on unsparing, pass untasted all 

To feed the poor. 

(Enter ROSAMOND CLIFFORD, dressed as a nun) . 
GRIMM. The hundred men-at-arms 

Whose armour shines about the palace doors, 

Are but an ensign of the primate's state ; 

The real man is he who goes alone 

Among the low-browed hovels of the needy, 

In search of sickness, sorrow, or despair. 
HERBERT. He never rests : his ev'ry night is passed 

In pray'r to Heav'n, and all of ev'ry day 

In doing good to men. 
ROSAMOND. Brothers, ye speak 

Of Thomas Becket ? 

GRIMM. Aye ! of none else, sister, 

ROSAMOND. May one have speech with him ? 
HERBERT. Aye, readily ! 

Better thine habit recommends thy cause, 

Than had'st thou come bedizened as a queen. 
ROSAMOND. A queen ! Can he surmise ? Nay ! who can 

What sin and sorrow have their hiding-place [know 

Beneath this mantle. 
GRIMM. I will tell my lord. 


ROSAMOND. Say only that a Sister Magdalen 

Of Godstowe prays for present audience. 

(Exeunt GRIMM and HERBERT.) 

ROSAMOND. How will he meet me, being what I am ? 
He whom I knew, ah me ! how long ago, 
Ere yet the fire of sinful passion seared 
My budding heart ; he who, most like a pearl, 
Amid the fervid foulness of the court 
Was stainless ever. How are we divided ! 
I, that was daughter of a belted earl, 
Loving above, sank loving 'neath my rank, 
Loving was loved, and loving palled, and so 
Loving was cast away. (Enter BECKET.) 

Can eyes so pure 

As his read aught but awful blackness here ? 
Can he guess all ; can he, so high in thought, 
Dream what a space divides poor Magdalen 
From haughty Rosamond Clifford ? 

BECKET. Rosamond ! 

ROSAMOND. My lord ! (Tries to kiss his hand. He raises her.) 

BECKET (aside). After these years ! 

Methought they named 
A Sister Magdalen. 

ROSAMOND. 'Tis I, my lord ! 

BECKET (after a pause). What would'st thou, daughter ? 

ROSAMOND. Father ! if repentance 

May bridge the awful gulf 'twixt thee and me ; 
If thou so high in the serener air 
May'st stoop to pity me who in the mire 
Tramp weary way ; if, though thou loathe the sin, 
Thou hast some mercy for the circumstance 
Which made the" sinner, hear me ! 

BECKET (aside). A.h ! the voice ! 

The gesture ! 

ROSAMOND. Father, turn thy face to me ! 
Nay ! shrink not back ! I am not that I was : 
Ten years of pray'r and holy meditation, 
Of tears, of sighs, of all too late repentance 

BECKET. Never too late, my daughter. 


ROSAMOND. Leave me now 

Not Lady Rosamond, the royal mistress, 
But Magdalen, the sister of the poor. 

BECKET (aside). How my heart stirs ! 

ROSAMOND. Oh, father, yet no word ! 
Can'st thou remember ? turn thy mind beyond 
The fatal day when Henry won my love, 
Can'st thou remember ? 

BECEKT (aside) . Ah ! could I forget ? 

ROSAMOND. A little scholar, scarce of half thy years, 
Slow to be taught, but quick to be caressed, 
A little loving, laughing, coaxing girl, 
Who would not strive to read the crabbed lines 
Until thou saidst " I love thee ! " 

BECKET (aside). Loved her, ah ! 

She knows not all. 

ROSAMOND. And so the scholar grew 

To be a woman, but she ne'er forgot 
Her loving teacher, pale with care and study : 
And then the clouds, with wind and drenching rain, 
Swept in between the two, and her they hurled 
Through royal state and royal misery, 
Through broken promises and blighted faith, 
To kneel a suppliant to him who loved her 
Before the tempest. 

BECKET (aside) . Loved her with the love 

May kill, but dies not. 

ROSAMOND. Father ! Father, hear ! 

I was deceived : I am not all so vile, 
So foul a thing as thou believest me ! 
When Henry came, and laid his lips on mine, 
He wooed me not to be his paramour, 
But on my finger set the mystic ring 
Which makes such slender margin 'twixt the loves, 
This deadly, and that holy. Shun me not ! 
I sinned unknowing. 

BECKET. Lied he then to thee ? 

ROSAMOND. Nay ! But was false thereafter. 

BECKET. And the queen ? 


ROSAMOND. Wed to King Louis, had riot then devised 
The quasi- widowhood that gave her Henry, 
Gave him the realms for which he married her. 

BECKET. I knew not this. 

ROSAMOND. Nor had'st thou known it now, 

Save that 1 dared not come before thy face 
And make my poor entreaty, till the truth 
Declared itself unveiled before thine eyes. 

BECKET (after a pause). My daughter 

ROSAMOND. Father, judge me not in haste ! 

Out of the boundless storehouse of thy pity 
Find mo some comfort ! Fling me not away ! 
But hear my pray'r ! Even a lep'rous wretch 
Thou would'st not pass unaiding ; stoop to me, 
Whose wings bedraggled in the dust o' the world 
May never soar to thee ! 

BECKET. My daughter ! I ? 

I judge thee ? God forbid ! for sinner ne'er 
Has needed mercy more. 

ROSAMOND. What ? Thou ? 

BECKET. Yes ! I ! 

Or were I more than man ; having so long 
Lived amidst other men : For ev'ry heart, 
Whate'er of outward show its seeming have, 
Fostei-s a plague-spot in it, feels it there, 
Fouling the very blood. 

ROSAMOND. Is nothing good ? 

BECKET. All things arc good ! What if a man may bear 
Within his breast an enemy for ever, 
If he enslave that foe, and make him serve 
His better self for ever ? Daily fight 
Is growing strength : but embryo sin unguessed 
Begets a future falling : know thyself, 
Mistrust thyself ; and learn of this mistrust 
To pity others. 

ROSAMOND. Father, there are men 

Aye ! women, hateful, sinful to the bone. 

BECKET. Not one ! As none is good, not e'en the best, 
So in the deepest and the foulest slough 


Is some firm ground if thou niay'st touch it. 

ROSAMOND. . Father ! 

From all my misery of wasted years, 
From all my sorrow, all the happiness 
That might have been 

BECKET (aside.) Aye ! Might have been ; 

The cuckoo- cry of failure ! 

ROSAMOND. From despair, 

From long contention fruitless, from the rest 
Found at the last within the nunnery, 
Rises a cry of peace. 

BECKET. There is no peace ! 

A man may foster sloth and call it peace, 
Or drone in solitude and dream that peace ; 
But ever in him is the warring heart, 
Calling him forth to nobler battle-fields ! 
A man lives fighting, and must fighting die, 
Or shame his manhood. 

ROSAMOND. From the king 

BECKET. The king ? 

ROSAMOND. E'en so ! There came a messenger 

To me at Godstowe, and he prayed me go, 
As one attainted with no hope of gain, 
Desiring naught but peace for all the world, 
To pray thee, of thine olden amity, 
Of gratitude to him who raised thy fortune, 
To seek some middle ground in this contention 
Where ye may meet. 

BECKET. Daughter, 'twixt right and wrong, 

Is nothing neutral : the king believes him right, 
I know I am not wrong : between us two 
Where is the compromise ? 

ROSAMOND. I reason not ; 
I feel ! 'Tis more than sad that two such men, 
He whom I loved, thee whom I honoured more, 
Upon some subtle point and fine distinction 
Should shock the realm with discord, Let me plead 
With thee for him, with him for thee, entreat 
Him by his love, thee by thy friendship past 


BECKET (aside). Reversed, the plea were stronger. 
ROSAMOND. To abate 

This hateful enmity ! 
BECKET (aside.) As 'twere an angel 

Suing for niercy for another's sin : 

How fair, how good, she is ! 
ROSAMOND. Have you no answer ? 

BECKET. It cannot be. 
ROSAMOND. Oh father, in thy yeai-s 

Has no strong sorrow beaten on thy life ; 

Hast thou not known the torture of the night, 

When day-light lags, and the small whisp'ring voices 

Bear witness in the silence ; hast not known 

Uprising sad and sadder taking rest, 

When all thy soul has longed for some release ; 

Not happiness, that could not be, but only 

Decrease of pain, or some new phase of pain ? 
BECKET. For years I knew it. (Aside) Knew it for the sake 

Of her who speaks unknowing all I bore. 

For years I stood as 'twere upon a peak, 

A precipice before, behind, around me ; 

Perched on the present hour, I dared not glance 

Back for I shuddered, forward for I shrank 

A-tremble from the future. 
ROSAMOND. Then by all 

Thy soul hath suffered sinless, pity me 

Who tottering stand like thee, but with the mass 

Of my wrongdoing bound about my neck, 

A burden and a danger ! 
BECKET. Press me not ! 

Lest yielding I may curse both thee and me. 
ROSAMOND. What hope have I to win some small forgiveness 

Save by the doing of some general good ? 

It seemed to me that, as I came to-day, 

An angel whispered, " Plain before thy feet 

Lies the true way to offer reparation 

For all the olden evil." Grant me this ! 

Oh ! Father, save my soul ! 
BECKET. Tempt me not, daughter ! 


(Aside). Oh ! how her voice tugs at the strings o' my 

heart ! 
ROSAMOND. Oh ! yield thee, father : Give the angry realm 

Peace from thy hands ! Forbear ! The king is hot : 

Who knows in this may lie what dread temptation 

To thee or him ? 

BECKET (aside). Ah, youth ! Art thou not dead ? 
ROSAMOND. Around the peaceful circuit of the convent 

I hear the jarring words of wrathful men, 

And oaths and threats that tell of civil war, 

The English 'gainst the Norman, and the Church 

Against the king. 
BECKET. That shall not be, I swear ! 

I fight niy fight with weapons not of earth, 

Whate'er the king may wield. 
ROSAMOND. And words I hear 

Of excommunication, interdict, 

The deadly shafts of Heaven's armoury. 
BECKET. Not for the people ! 'Tis the topping hill 

That draws the lightning. 

ROSAMOND. Peace ! my lord, give peace ! 

BECKET. I may not. Hear me ! Were this thing of me, 

Plain Thomas Beckct, ere thy wish were framed 

'Twcre granted : but, I, being as I am, 

The Primate of all England, Head of the Church, 

May not betray her so. 
ROSAMOND. A subtlety 

Of words I cannot follow, 
BECKET (aside). Bruised reed, 

I will not break thee ! 
ROSAMOND. Thou, the minister 

Of Him who reigns by peace, wilt thou deny 

Thy message and thy master, sowing seed 

Of hot rebellion 'gainst the majesty 

He bids thee serve ? Alas ! How art thou changed 

From that good scholar ! 
BECKET I am but a steward, 

Holding the signet of my sec in charge 

For some few years. Look thou a little forward ! 


The Church is not, the king omnipotent ; 

The poor arc slaves indeed, the rich are tyrants; 

What little learning has survived till now 

For war discarded ; Liberty is dead ! 

For Learning, Freedom, all things liberal, 

Are, shelt'ring 'neath the shadow of the Church, 

Crushed if she fall ! I, guardian of the Cross, 

Stand by the Cross ! 
ROSAMOND. It may be so ; but I, 

Perplexed by all the misery of life, 

Its vain uprisings and its useless failures, 

Am weary of it, hope for naught but peace. 
BECKET. My daughter, peace be with thee ! If in aught, 

I can befriend thee, bid me serve thee ever. 
ROSAMOND. I pray thee serve me only in this thing ! 
BECKET. I cannot do it. 
ROSAMOND. Cannot ! Then I go 

Back to my cell in sadness, unabsolved : 

The will is not the deed ! 
BECKET. It strains my heart 

To grieve thee thus. 
ROSAMOND. Enough ! I must to Henry ! 

But yet one word of warning : look to thee ! 

Sec thou advcntui-e not too far with him, 

Lest he undo thee ! 
BECKET. Naught can e'er undo 

Him who fears nothing. Go, my daughter, go ! 

My blessing with thee ! 
ROSAMOND. Father ! Magdalen 

Prays thee forgive whate'er from Rosamond 

Grieved or may grieve thee. 
BECKET. Daughter, go in peace ! 

BECKET. I loved her : how I loved her ! I was then 

Just at the moment when the years are ripe, 

When all a man is, ever can be, gives 

The colour to his life : when love no more 

Is daily pastime, but a life-long need ! 

Ah me ! She knew it not : she ne'er will know. 

Could I, a careworn, pale and timid scholar, 
Dare to address the daughter of the Clifford ? 

And BO and so 

Enough ! Am I a boy ? 
All love is gone for ever, past recalling, 
Even in dreams, and dreams are naught to me 
To work is mine, to do, to dare, to suffer ! 
All that is past is dead, save in so far 
As tends our future life to make or mar. 



SCENE II. The Ante-chamber of the Council-hall) Northampton. 


WILLIAM. Now welcome, gentlemen ! A goodly hunt 

Is ours to-day. Is Becket harboured yet ? 
RANULPH. My lord, he tarries ; pray he 'scape us not 

By priestly prudence. 
LE BRETON. Never fear ! No boar 

Charged ever headlong on the circling nets, 

As shall boar Thomas. 
WILLIAM. Ware his tushes, sir ! 

DE TRACY. Nay ! Ere he leave the castle 

RANULPH. If he leave it ; 

Since, as I hear, the king has order giv'n, 

That on his entrance cv'ry gate be shut 

And guarded. 
WILLIAM. Ah ! This is news indeed ! 

My lords, I bid you all unto my bridal. 
FITZURSE. When shall it be, my lord ? 
WILLIAM. A month behind 

This rascal's ending. Roger of York will be 


Less captious than the other. 
LE BRETON. And, my lord, 

A boar's head were a sav'ry wedding dish. 
RANULPH. Sell not the bristles ere the beast be dead. 
WILLIAM. How can he 'scape ? Doth any wish him well ? 
ALL. Not one ! 
FITZURSE. The king himself is so bewrought 

With anger, that he will not write to him, 

Since at the heading he must needs set " Greeting." 
TRACY. What is the scheme, my lord, to take the man ? 
WILLIAM. First, for his double-dealing with the king 

At Clarendon, there stands a charge of treason. 
TRACY. How will he answer that ? 
WILLIAM. He cannot ? Next 

Are twenty other counts, of peculation, 

Of money from the king at usury 

Borrowed, and ne'er repaid. We have him fast. 
RANULPH. How if he pay ? 
WILLIAM. He cannot : all his lands 

His manors, rents, his ev'ry benefice, 

At once escheated for the former crime, 

He is a beggar now, a debtor then, 

With nothing but his body for his bond. 
FITZURSE. Who shall adjudge this ? Not the king himself? 

'Tis he that sues. 
WILLIAM. The barons and the bishops 

Of England. 

TRACY. Will they ? 

WILLIAM. Aye ! Perforce they must. 

RANULPH. Some love, some hate, all go in fear of him. 
WILLIAM. But all condemn him, for the king betimes 

Advises each, that death or mutilation 

Rewards an adverse verdict. 
RANULPH. Say you so ? 

A royal road to justice ! Kingly threats 

Bear weighty reason. 

FITZURSE. If he fly, my lord ? 

WILLIAM. Then is he outlaw, prey to ev'ry man 

With wit to snare him, strength to hold him fast. 


Joy with me, gentlemen, for not one here 

But some time suffered something at his hands : 

I in my love (to LE BRETON) thou in thy life he threatened ; 

Fitzurse to me, Tracy to thee, de Broc, 

As good friends and good fellows, lend their aid, 

(To RANULPH) Is thine hate bitter ? 

RANULPH. To the death, my lord. 

WILLIAM. And the occasion of it ? 

RANULPH. Such an insult 

As no man dares to whisper. 

WILLIAM. How ? (Trumpets heard.) 

RANULPH. My Lord, 

Here comes the king. 

(Enter KING and train.) 

KING. I greet you, gentlemen. 

(Exit procession into the council-chamber.) 



SCENE III. The Council-chamber at Northampton. 

(All standing. The King walking up and down the hall as if in 
thought. The Barons speaking together.) 

KING. As well to make an end ! Ye know, my lords, 
How in these later days, of olden kindness 
Forgetful, careless, stubborn Becket stands 
A rebel 'gainst my ruling, aye ! a traitor : 
So much at least he who can read the times, 
E'en though he blink and boggle, needs must see. 
So much I knew of old, but now I learn, 


And shall to you discover, such a trespass, 
A fault so beggarly, a crime so mean, 
As bids me blush that e'er I called him friend, 
Or stooped to raise him from his native mire. 
Speak on, my lord of York. 

YORK. My lord the king, 

Finding discrepancy in such loose statements 
As JBecket, late the chancellor of England, 
Displayed before him, bade me secretly 
Look to the matter. Probing here and there, 
As 'twere amid corruption, I have found 
Such evil doings, so unscrupulous, 
As, were the sum of the total added up, 
Declares the archbishop debtor to my lord 
In thirty thousand marks. 

KINO. A monstrous sum, 

Wrung from the tithes of ev'ry benefice 
His hands could grasp, from ev'ry canon's stall, 
And drawn, aye filched, from the particular store 
O' the royal treasure. Hear ye then and judge ! 

WINCHESTER. My lord ! The primate 

KING. Comes not here. The wolf 

Is wary of the hunter, and the thief 
Lists not to face the justice. Read, my lord, 
The foremost charge. 

YORK. Stands on the list, my lord, 

Item, to serve the war against Toulouse, 
Five hundred marks lent by my lord the king 
To Thomas Becket : Item, to equip 
The embassy to France, five hundred marks, 
On royal surety borrowed from a Jew, 
One Solomon. 

KINO. And ne'er repaid, my lords ! 

(Shouts heard.) What means this uproar ? 
(Enter an Usher.') 

USHER. At the castle gate 

The lord archbishop claimed his privilege 
Of entrance, forced the guard, and from the court 
Into the presence passes. 


KING. Is he here ? 

I cannot see the man ! I loved him once, 

And of my love is born the stronger hate : 

Pass we, my lords, into an inner room, 

And there devise this matter. Hold the door, 

And let none pass ! (Exeunt KING and court.) 

[A curtain falls over the door a guard in front.] 
(Enter BECKET, bearing his cross, followed ~by bishops, priests 

etc. He advances to the door the guard lower their pikes.) 
BECKET. Give place ! 

OFFICER. Not so, my lord ! 

Save by the king's command. 
BECKET. Obedience 

In us does equal honour. 

(He sits thinking in the centre of the hall.) 
WINCHESTER (to LONDON). Wilt permit 

My lord the primate thus to bear his cross ? 
LONDON. Indeed, good man, he ever was a fool : 

Fool to the end. 
WINCHESTER (to BECKET.) My lord, may my poor aid 

Relieve thee of the cross ? 
BECKET. Nay ! dear my son ! 

To ev'ry knight his banner. 
LONDON. Look thou now, 

My lord archbishop, whither tends thy conduct, 

To peace or war ? Against thy banner-cross 

The king will bare the sword. 
BECKET. And so in keeping : 

The sword of war the symbol, this of peace, 

And peace I will not loose. 

(Loud talking heard from the council.) 
LONDON. My lord, the Church 

Seeks guidance at thy hands : Wilt thou, for this 

So trifling question, suffer hot discussion 

To part her from the throne ? 
BECKET. What throne ? I bow 

To one throne only, that of Heaven, my son. 

We are the kings of the earth ; shall we abase 

Our majesty to men ? 


LONDON. Hast thou no fear 

To match thy single individual judgment 
'Gainst that of ev'ry bishop ? Is thy neck 
So stiff it cannot bow to save thine head ? 
Look thou, my lord, I will not share thy sin, 
Who with a two-edged sword would'st drive the Church 
Into the lion's maw ! 



My lord, it is the noble privilege 
Of thine high office, so to lead the Church 
That all her ways be peace : I dare to say 
That this contempt and all too huge presumption 
Tend but to schism, as parting good from good, 
Admitting evil. 

BECKET. Judas ! Get thee gone ! 

Out of thy seeming candour, lying tongue, 
Thou hast betrayed. 

WINCHESTER. My lord, I have been young, 

And now am old, but never knew I one 
Who trusted Heav'n, by trusted Heaven forsaken : 
Be strong to do the right, whate'er betide ! 
I, who anointed thee, will stand by thee, 
Stand, aye ! and fall if need be. 

BECKET. Dear my lord, 

To the exceeding honour of thy years 
Hast thou an added honour : For the Church, 
Whose champions we 

LONDON. Somewhat too soldierly ! 

BECKET. Then shall I dare to say, whose martyrs we, 
Save some of us are lukewarm in the Faith, 
Undaunted stand against the savage world, 
As faced St. Paul the beasts at Ephesus. 

SALISBURY. My lord, some thought of caution may be wise ; 
Who risks not all may chance to save a little. 

BECKET. There speaks the doubter ! Caution ! Risk ! 
He who would win the least must venture all, [My lords, 
Or shun the battle. Hear my charge to you ! 
My brethren, Heav'n hath pleased in these last days 


To lay upon my loins a heavy burden, 

To beat upon my face with lashing rain, 

To loose my foes upon me ; but the sum 

Of all this misery weighs little 'gainst 

The sorrow of your failing : You, the sons 

Of our dear Mother, have deserted me ; 

And you, who should have fought beside me, sting, 

As 'twere a mote in the eye, a goad in the side. 

LONDON (aside). *A goad to do thee good ! Methinks, my 
A swimming boat on stormy blust'rous seas, [lords, 
Than such a sinking and disastrous ship, 
Has more abiding comfort. 

BECKET. Aye ! for a rat ! 

I prayed you, as my brethren, side with me ; 
But now, by virtue of my holy office, 
I, Thomas Becket, primate of all England, 
Enjoin you all, in peril of your orders, 
Presume not one of you to judge my cause, 
Nor dare be present when the^cause is judged : 
For I, deserted, lone, a prisoner, 
Appeal from Henry to the Holy See ! 

LONDON. The Holy See ! 

WINCHESTER. My father, is this wise ? 

BECKET. I care not, knowing well it must be right. 
And furthermore, if any dare to lay 
A sacrilegious hand upon my person, 
I do command, by virtue of my office, 
Ye loose upon them ev'ry ban of Church ; 
Curse them with book and candle ! Give their souls 
Unto damnation ! Spare none ! Pity none ! 

LONDON. A fool as ever ! 

WINCHESTER. Dear my lord, I pray 

BECKET. See that ye waver not ! For be assured 

Though earth oppress me, aye ! though hell shall gape 
And void her spawn, I will not yield a jot ! 
Though this frail body 'neath a hundred arms, 
Confess its weakness writhing in the dust, 
My spirit shall unvanquished hold its guard 
Against oppression. Nor will I, am dubbed 


The knight of Heaven, turn my back in flight, 

Nor, by the mercy of God, desert the flock 

Committed to my care. 
CHICHESTER, My lord, such words 

Are not attuned to a royal ear, 

Nor like to quiet strife. 
BECKET. My loi'd, such words 

Are such as should be spoken, let the king 

Think as he may. (Enter an Usher.) 

USHER. My lords, the king desires 

The bishops' presence. 

(To BECKET.) Nay ! Not thine, my lord. 
WINCHESTER. May Heav'n thou servest nobly, keep thee safely ! 
BECKET. I have no doubt. (Exeunt Bishops.) 

(A pause violent speaking in the inner room.') 
HERBERT. Hast thou the Host, my lord ? 

BECKET. Here, next my heart. 
GRIMM. As well all things were ready, 

Should they lay hands upon thee, to declare 

The greater excommunication. 

Far be it from my lord ! Not so the martyr, 

Our best example, taught us : let him pray 

For all, forgive all, and possess his mind 

In patience, e'en if he shall suffer wrong ; 

So shall his soul have rest, his mem'ry blessing. 
BECKET. For you go I in fear : Fear not yourselves ! 

My crown is yours. 
GRIMM. Let us not either fear ! 

This is a noble standard, bear it up 

Against the sons of earth, the pow'rs of air 

And overthrow them ! 

HERBERT. Father, if I may 

USHER. Speak not unto my lord ! 

GRIMM. What ? 

USHER. Silence, sir ! 

(GRIMM points to the cross BECKET smiles and nods They 

all kneel. Enter the Empress, the Queen, and Ladies.) 
QUEEN. Madam, see here my lord the proud archbishop 


Bent to his knees. 

EMPRESS. 'Tis best he should be so. 

BECKET (rising to the Queen.) Madam, I kneel, but to no 

earthly master : 

And better 'twere that thy remaining years 
Should sue for pardon for thy godless past. 

QUEEN. Serpent, thou hast a tongue, but guard it well ! 

EMPRESS. Lest others guard it for thee. 

BECKET. Empress Maud ! 

Thou who hast lived with sorrow, slept with it, 
Waked with it, found it's daily taste and taint 
In e'en thy platter and thy cup ; can'st thou 
Deride the fallen, vex the bruised heart ? 
Is there no chord within thy woman's breast 
May answer to my cry of weariness, 
As matching thine of old ? 

EMPRESS. Is this a churl, 

Who speaks such words ? 

QUEEN. Aye, mother ! Such a churl, 

That, were he perched again upon his throne, 
He would not stoop to favour thee, to yield 
Aught thou desirest. 

EMPRESS. Why didst thou, my lord, 

Defeat my urgent purpose, straining words 
Of Holy Writ to thine interpretation, 
And William's loss ? 

BECKET. Madam, it is not I 

Who thwart thee : Holy Church, in her desire 
To check unnatural longing, has declared 
Such union sinful. 

QUEEN. Madam ! I ! Not I ! 

When ev'ry silly fool in all thy see 

Well knows that, had'st thou wagged thy smallest finger, 

The Church were silent. 

BECKET. Ev'ry silly fool- 

Well said, none other ! Pass thou by, the queen, 

The Nay ! I will not speak the word : but go ! 

Pass to thine own ! 

QUEEN. Pass I where'er I will, 


Thou goest never. 
EMPRESS. Hush ! Hush ! My daughter ! 

Becket, I have some skill to move the king, 

Some right to sway him, being as I am 

Her by whose motherhood he wears the crown ; 

And by the right of age, and by my sorrows 

Of which he reaps the fruit, I have some voice 

In e'en his councils. 
BECKET. Madam, all must know, 

The king reveres thee. 
EMPRESS. Granted it be so, 

I will adventure all my pow'r to plead 

For thee to Henry ; I will place this matter 

In such new light before his eyes, that he, 

Blind to thy faults, shall nothing clearer see 

Than thy forgotten love. 
BECKET. Ah, madam, so 

Shalt thou obtain the richest crown of age, 

A blessed ending. 
EMPRESS. Only this I ask ; 

Wilt thou, if I restore thee to thy place 

In the heart, in the realm, of the king, give me thine aid 

To work this marriage for my son ? 
BECKET. I cannot. 

EMPRESS. Thou can'st not ? Shall I waste my toil and pain 

To prop a puppet " cannot "? Out on thee ! 

Go to thy dungeon ! 
BECKET. Madam, by my office 

I am constrained to a narrow path ; 

That which another man may tripping take 

Is closed to me. 
EMPRESS. What have I bid thee do ; 

To climb the Alps, to leap the endless sea ? 
BECKET. Aye ! More ! Thou'st bid that I should stain my 

By such accession to thy doubtful purpose, [rank 

That if a man should say, " For fear of death 

Thou gav'st thine honour, setting life before 

Thy conscience ! " I could not belie that man. 
EMPRESS. Enough ! Perchance ere many days are past 


Thou wilt be wiser. 

BECKET. Gro in peace, my daughter. 

QUEEN. Better keep peace with thee, thou'lt need it yet ! 

(Exeunt Empress, Queen, and Ladies.) 
BECKET. I need it now : How many a silly word 

Has poison in it ? Peace ! It is the grave. 
LEICESTER. My lord archbishop, from my lord the king 

We come to thee ; see thou with reverence 

Receive his words, 
BECKET. My lords and gentlemen. 

By oath and fealty I hold me bound 

Unto my lord the king, as his liege man, 

In honour and fidelity to serve him ; 

Save in such matters as are due to Heav'n, 

The Church's dignity and mine own office. 
LEICESTER. My lord the king with indignation hears 

That thou hast, touching statutes of the realm, 

Unto the Pope appealed. 
BECKET. Not so ; the question 

Is touching discipline. 
LEICESTER. The ai'guments 

Regarding thine accounts, which to the king 

Were pleaded, are by him rejected, stand 

Convict of failure. 

BECKET (aside.) . Faulty by their force. 

LEICESTER. We, that are earls and barons of the realm, 

Do therefore now demand that thou, archbishop, 

Deliver presently to us the roll 

Of thine expense as royal chancellor ; 

And further, hear me out ! that thou shalt swear, 

By Canterbury's cross, obedience 

To all the court decide. 
BECKET. My lords and brethren all, 

Many commissions bore I from the king ; 

In all was faithful, in his service spared 

Not e'en my private revenue ; again, 

Being elect Archbishop, from the king 

Received indemnity for all the past : 


This is reputed fact to most of you, 

And is the anchor of my cause. The chai'ge 

Anent the appeal is easier yet to answer ; 

For which of you, my lords, who is a soldier, 

Would give consent that matters military 

Be judged in the ranks ? I, am anointed head 

Of England's Church, admit no other chief 

Than he is Sovereign Pontiff of the world : 

I did appeal, I do appeal, to him, 

And place beneath omnipotent protection 

My Church and mine own person. 

LEICESTER. This shall straight 

Unto the king. (Exeunt LEICESTER and CORNWALL.) 

WILLIAM. The Conqueror had known 

A spelt to tame such clerics. 

FITZURSE. Aye, indeed ! 

Such vermin hawks as dared to fly too high 
He mewed up closely. 

RANULPH. Or he clipped their wings. 

WILLIAM. He of Bayeux had narrow bishopric 
In London's Tower. 

LE BRETON. Come we nearer home : 

Stigand of Canterbury fourteen years 
Lay in a dungeon. 

RANULPH. Geoffrey, Henry's father, 

Did better yet. 

BECKET. Out! Out! Ye coward knights ! 

Is this the manhood of your chivalry, 
To vex the helpless, smite unarmed heads ? 
We, who are soldiers in our hearts, will teach 
You, that be warriors only by your garb, 
To do, to dare, to die. (They threaten him.) 

WILLIAM. Hold fast, my lords ! 

A dying tongue hath licence. 

(Exeunt WILLIAM and lords. The Archbishop of York and 
the Bishops eniev from the council- chamber.) 

YORK. Come my sons ! 

Let us away, lest we be witnesses 
Of all his lordship suffers. (Exit.) 


SALISBURY (throwng himself at 'BECK.^S feet.) Father! Father! 
Pity thyself ! Have pity too on us ! 
Wilt thou destroy us also, by the hate 
Which bursts on thee ? The king attaints of treason 
All who may favour thee. 

BECKET. Hence, Satan, hence ! 

Thou sav'rest not the things which be of God. 

SALISBURY (to LONDON.) Didst hear the king ? 

LONDON. Aye ! No uncertain words. 

SALISBURY. Of mutilation spake he. 

LONDON. And of death. 

SALISBURY. An'twere a righteous cause, I were not careful 
To dare my life, but this - 

LONDON. In this, I doubt. 

SALISBURY. So great presumption ! 

LONDON. And too little caution ! 

SALISBURY. Better we go, my brother. 

LONDON. Till the storm 

Be spent a little. (Exeunt.) 

CHICHESTER. Saving thy grace, my lord, 

We have of thee some subject of complaint ; 
Thy sudden mandate fixes us betwixt 
The royal hammer and the Church's anvil, 
Condemned and helpless. In our ignorance 
Of priestly craft, we had believed this case 
At Clarendon decided, for we there, 
Thou first, the acts and customs of the king 
Have signed and sealed. 

BECKET. My lord, thou goest too far : 

I set no seal. 

CHICHESTER. Nay ! But assented all ; 

And when the king bade swear, required him know 
A bishop's word sufficient ; he, content, 
Pressed us no farther on the point ; but now 
Thou, who didst lead our promise, dost forbid 
The service promised : Is this good, my lord ? 
From this oppression of authority 
And misdirection, fearing future ill, 
We, who obey protesting, do appeal 


Unto the Church's head. 

BECKET. And by God's help 

I'll answer that appeal ; know this, my lord, 
The Pope, to whom thou callest, has condemned 
All, ev'ry tittle of the royal acts, 
Annuls each word ! What he receives, receive ; 
As he rejects, reject ! It is our Faith. 
We fell at Clarendon ; none more than I 
Grieves for the failing, but the flesh is weak : 
Bewail our fault with me, and make of it 
With me a fresh departure : He who holds 
The keys of Heav'n and Hell declares our oath 
Unlawful ; so it is not, never was, 
And, as I live, ne'er shall be ! 

Go my brothers ! 

E'en those of you who love me not, I pray, 
Give me your prayers. (Exeunt Bishops.) 
(BECKET rises.) 

GUIMM. Sit! Sit, my lord, 'twere well 

That these should feel how they condemn their father, 
And he who bears the cross saluteth none. 
(BECKET sits.) 

LEICESTER. The king commands thou render up account 
Of all expenditure. 

BECKET. It cannot be. 

LEICESTER. Then hear, my lord, the judgment of the Court. 

BUCKET. The judgment ! Nay, my son the earl ! Hear me! 
Thou know'st of old how I have loved the king. 
How faithfully I served him : For this love 
And for such service, he appointed me 
To be archbishop. Loving well the king, 
More than my God, I yielded, and alas ! 
For this my weakness now am sore chastised, 
Being deserted both by God and king. 
Anent this present charge ; at my enthroning 
Question was asked and open answer giv'n, 
Before, my lord, Prince Henry : " Comes this man 
Free to the Church ?" " Free from all worldly ties ! " 


I am not therefore bound, nor will I plead 
Respecting prior matters. 

LEICESTER. That the king 

Had from my lord of London stands not thus, 
Nay ! in essentials differs : But, my lord, 
Can'st thou refuse the judgment of the king, 
Being his subject, holding at his hands 
Estates and rents in fief and barony. 

BECKET. Nothing I hold in fief or barony ! 

Whatever kings have given to the Church, 
That have they granted as free alms ; and more 
The king himself hath by his solemn act 
Declared the same. I therefore, by my office, 
And by the high authority is mine, 
By ordinance of God, and by the law 
Of Christendom, do now forbid thee, earl, 
To judge me, thine archbishop. 

LEICESTER. Dear my lord, 

I would not in this matter order aught 
To my soul's detriment. I hold my peace. 
(To CORNWALL.) Therefore do thou, my lord, what may 
And speak the king's commands. [remain. 

CORNWALL. I venture not, 

Save as is ordered. 

LEICESTER. Then, my lord, I pray, 

That you await the answer. 

BECKET. Am I then 

A prisoner here ? 

LEICESTER. No ! By Saint Lazarus, No ! 

(The Lords are about to go off.) 

BECKET. Yet listen, son and earl ! By insomuch 
As is the living soul within thy body 
More worthy than the carcase, by so much 
Are you, a Christian, bound to God and me, 
To hear and follow, rather than the king : 
Nor earthly law nor common reason suffers 
That children judge their father : Wherefore theu 
I clean refuse the judgment of the king, 
Of you, or any other. Under God 


The Pope alone shall judge ! Before you all 

I here appeal to him, and give the Church, 

Myself, my order and my dignity 

To God's protection and to his ; and those 

My fellow-bishops, who deny me here, 

I summon to the presence of the Pope ! 

And now, in guard beneath the awful shield 

Of the Catholic Church and of the Holy See, 

I will go hence. (Turns to go ; the Earls pass out). 

WILLIAM. Perjured traitoi' ! 


The traitor runs away ! 

WILLIAM. Sneaks as a rat 

Into his safety hole ! 

LE BRETON. Farewell, my lord ! 

Say, shall I hold thy horse ? 

WILLIAM. Out ! Out ! Traitor ! 

BECKET. William ! Were I a knight, my sword alone 
Should answer such a lie. 

ALL. Out ! Traitor ! Out ! 

(They hoot him and throw slides and straws at him, driving 

him out of the hall. When he has gone, exit an usher to 

the King. Enter the King.) 

KINO. Gone ? Is he gone ? 

WILLIAM. His tail between his legs ; 

A well- whipped cur ! 

KING. Pray Heav'n he come not back, 

To give thy word the lie ! 

LE BUETON (looldng from the windoiv.) Ah ! As I live 
They find the keys o' the gate, he passes out ! 
(Loud cheers heard.) 

KING. What cries are these ? 

LEICESTER (looking out.) The English poor, my lord : 
They cluster round him, scramble for his hand, 
Almost Avould tear the very cross away 
To plant their kisses ; scarce can Becket guide 
His pacing palfrey, so they press around, 
About him ; kiss his very stirrup, cling 
E'en to his mail tie : How they love him ! 


KING. Aye ! 

He is a man to love !--Were he my friend, 
All that I do or dare should have good end ! 



SCENE I. (A. D. 1164). The country near St. Omer. 

(A crowd of BECKET'S dependents, men, women and children, 
straggles in). 

OSBERT. Courage, my father, 

GILBERT. Nay ! I can no more ! 

My curse upon the king, that he has driv'n 
My English bones to lie in Norman ground ! 

EDITH. Hush ! Hush, my father ! 

STEPHEN. Nay ! Shall he keep silence, 

When we, were free men in a Christian land, 
Are for no fault of ours thus dispossessed, 
And flung as strangers on a foreign shore ? 
May Heav'n who sees us, blight King Henry's name, 
And may his children curse him, since he wills 
Our children starve ! 

MARY. 'Tis but a little month 

Since we were happy. 

OSBERT. Aye ! And knew it not 

E'en for the ease of it. 

GILBERT. Aye ! a month ago 

My life of toil had rest in honoured age, 
But now, alas ! 

STEPHEN. We, that were English yeomen, 

The sons, by right the owners, of the land, 
Are by this Norman tyrant sent adrift, 
A vagrant rabble. (Enter PENDA.) 


Hasfc tliou English, sir ? 
PENDA. English ? I hardly know : So many years 

My tongue hath tied itself into such knots, 

Fretting itself to ape the Norman roll : 

But I am English-born : And who are ye ? 
STEPHEN. We be all English : Some of us are thralls, 

Some yeomen, others citizens, but all 

Footsore and penniless. 

PENDA. "What do ye here ? 

STEPHEN. Torn from our English homes by Norman hnnds, 

We, crowded in a narrow boat, were borne 

Across tempestuous seas, and tumbled out 

Upon this shore as beggars. 
PENDA. How my heart 

Warms to the English burr ! 
GILBERT. Aye ! gentle sir ! 

I am an old man, sir, and very feeble ; 

I scarce can totter on 

STEPHEN. Look well around ! 

What seest thou ? 

PENDA (aside). A very motley crowd. 

STEPHEN. All these hath Henry cast from out his realm. 
PENDA. Was it the dappled deer hath tempted thee, 

Too fat for flight ? Was thy unlucky bow 

A thought too handy ; so the arrow flew 

At royal venison ? 
STEPHEN. Nay ! 'Twas none of that : 

We are condemned for trespass not of ours ! 

Say ! Hast thou heard the hatred of the king 

To Thomas Becket ? 
PENDA. Aye ! 

STEPHEN. Since he has fled 

Beyond the royal arm, the king, unable 

To catch the lion, hunts the lion's fleas. 

PENDA. And ye are 

STEPHEN. Some attached to the archbishop, 

And fathers, mothers, brethren, of his clerks, 

And, being so, are judged to be too foul 

To sully English ground. 


PENDA. Had I been told 

A swineherd did such thing, I dai'ed to say 
"Thou lily-livered churl." But in the king 
I doubt 'tis statecraft. 

STEPHEN. Call it what thou wilt. 

I call it murder ! All the company 
Hath not a groat amongst them. Some of us 
Are delicately nurtured, never knew 
How keen the winter wind at midnight blows, 
Nor felt the desp'rate fellowship betwixt 
An empty purse and hunger. 

PENDA. I myself 

Of my poor store may aid you. Here is bread ! 
Black as it is the hungry will not loathe it : 
Would I had more ! There ! There ! My little ones : 
Hush ! Hush ! Content ye ! Whither go ye, sir ? 

STEPHEN. Where goes the thistledown, o'er hill and valley, 
As lists the wind. 

PENDA. I pray you tarry here 

Until my lord returns. 

STEPHEN. My lord ! Who's he ? 

PENDA. My lord archbishop. 

STEPHEN. Becket ? 

PENDA. Aye ! 

STEPHEN. Stand up ! 

All, all of you ! Shout loud ! Our lord is here ! 
God bless him ! 

ALL. God bless him ! 

GILBERT. Sirs, he came, 

But two short months ago, to see me, sirs, 
Aye ! to see me. 

ALURED. And when the sickness was, 

And my poor wife the very leeches feared 

To come anigh the house ; but he, the primate, 
First of the land, he came, and sat awhile : 
And she died blessing him. 

STEPHEN. He shall be blessed ! 

None is too poor for him, and none too vile : 
Sin is disease to him, and may be cured ; 


Sickness, how dread-soe'r it be, begets 
Not fear but pity : Sorrow's not more sad 
Than Becket is for sorrow : ev'ry man 
Forlorn, despairing, claims him as his friend 
By right of misery : The poor are brothers, 
The wretched sons to him : God bless the man ! 

PENDA. E'en as thou sayest ! Methinks ! My eyes are dim : 
Seest thou something there ? 

STEPHEN. Aye ! in the distance. 

PENDA. Perchance it is my lord. 

STEPHEN. Two mules 1 see. 

GILBERT. Lift me, my son. 

STEPHEN. Some little company 

As weary, straggling. 

BECKET (without.) Robert, take thou the horses ! 

We follow thee afoot. 

PENDA. See ! See ! He's here ! 


ALL. God save thee ! 

GILBERT. Lead me quickly to my lord ! 

(They crowd round him, kissing his hands and dress.) 

BECKET. God bless you all, good people ! Give me space ! 
Or loving hands are like to make me fall : 
My blessing on you ! How ! Art thou here, Stephen ? 
Old Gilbert too, and Edith ? Little Ralph, 
Art early wandering ! Read me now this riddle ; 
Why you good folks, I deemed at Canterbury, 
Cluster about me here. 

STEPHEN. My lord, the king 

BECKET. The king ? Is this his royal embassy, 
The poor and needy, to the exiled Church ? 

STEPHEN. He, by an order published to the sheriffs, 
Arrested all who served thee ; having ta'en 
Their cattle, lands and goods, has thrown them out 
Across the sea. 

BECKET. My children ! My poor children ! 

So, for the father's fault, the son is cursed. 
Be comforted, ye shall not want ! The hand 
That wrought the evil shall amend the evil : 


I, that am cause that ye go now in pain, 

Will share my all with you ! With me ye weep, 

With me ye shall rejoice ! Hath any need ; 

I am his purse : Is any sick or sad ; 

I am his healing and his happiness : 

I am not mine, I am all yours for ever ; 

Son, brother, father, to each one of you 

To my life's ending ! 

Herbert, be their guide 
Unto the abbey ; pray his Reverence 
To lodge them as myself. Farewell, my friends. 

ALL. Long live the lord archbishop, and God bless him ! 
(They crowd about him. Exeunt except BECKET, DE Luci, 

BECKET. Is this thing well, de Luci ? Art thou proud 
That he that is thy king should stoop to wound 
So weak a thing as that ? The peregrine 
Turns flycatcher. 

DE Luci. My lord, I knew it not : 

I am but late from Flanders. 

BECKET. Knew it not ! 

Dost thou know this ; in mine own diocese, 
In mine own church, the king forbids to pray 
For wicked Thomas Becket ? As if law, 
King's law, should still the universal prayer 
Unto the King of Kings : It is as though 
A man should spread his cloak unto the wind, 
To stop the wind. 

DE Luci. My lord, thou know'st as I, 

Impetuous Henry, beat upon by passion, 
Can rule no more the pattern of his rage 
Than can the sea its surges, when the gale 
Rips all the smooth of it, the green of it, 
To ashen billows. 

BECKET. He, is great, my lord, 

Stands high above the passion of the hour, 
As doth a sea-light o'er tempestuous waves, 
And sheds a bright impartial flare e around 
O'er toil and terror. 



DE Luci. Who is great, my lord, 

Save in his striving ? 

DE MORVILLE. Come we to the point ! 

The king commands that thou at once return 
To England and thy duty. 

BECKET. Gently, sir ! 

I take no orders ; least of all from thee, 
My vassal : speak, de Luci ! 

DE Luci. Dear my lord, 

Thou'st learned the king ? 

BECKET. Aye ! Every nerve and bone 

Into the very centre of his being. 

DE Luci. And gauging him can'st feel how bitterly 
He now repents the rancour of his wrath, 
Which like the fiery flaming sword of old 
Drove thee from Paradise. 

BECKET. From Paradise ? 

The word's too strong ! No Eden was't to me, 
Who never slept but in the fear of death, 
Who never rising thought to sleep again 
Save in the tomb, whose every dish and cup 
Was dashed with possible poison : all my life 
Was due to keep my life, no leisure left 
For others' saving. 

DE Luci. This, my lord, is past ! 

Each tempest hath its ending : like a sun 
The king doth rise above the mist of anger 
Into meridian height of warmest love : 

BECKET. Mine or his ? 

DE Luci. Of both, my lord, 

Each to the other. 

BECKET. Nay ! It is too soon ! 

I like not instant changes. Ask the sailor 
What means the sudden spot of light on high, 
(He calls it bull's eye,) when amidst the clouds, 
Are toppling o'er with wind, for one brief moment 
The glory of the sun in golden shafts 
Breaks on the broken water ? He shall say ; 


" Look to thy tackle ! All that yet hath been 
" Is but a babe to him that followeth." 

DE MORVILLE. King Henry is an honest man, my lord ; 
Holding his own, he neither gives nor takes 
Save in requital : be thou true to him, 
He's true to thee ; deceive him, he's no fool 
To kiss deception. Put away from thee 
Thy malice, here's his hand. 

BECKET. A heavy hand, 

As those poor creatures know. 

DE MORVILLE. He has a sword 

Is heavier far. 

BECKET. Dost dare to threaten me ? 

Beware the thong, babbler ! 

DE Luci. I pray thee, patience ! 

De Morville, silence ! Pardon him, my lord, 
His so exceeding zeal. He loves the king 
As loves a hound his master, worships him 
As 'twere a God, can find no fault in him ; 
Is faithful, very faithful, to the hand 
That feeds him, barks aye ! bites to please the king 
At any, ev'ry man. 

BECKET (aside'). 'Tis such as he 

That make kings possible : the fawning note 
Of the pale parasite is at the sound, 
The very breath of battle silenced ; these 
Loving, they know not why, the man is called 
Their king, draw swords and up, fight, slay, are slain, 
To do another honour : loyalty 
Is over all unselfish, reasons not, 
Yet hath some reason. In so much as man 
Himself is feeble, needs he visible strength, 
A concrete might, to which he girds himself, 
Staying and stayed. 

Give me thy hand, de Morville. 

DE MORVILLE. Never again ! I for my poor estate 
Was thy liege man ; I served thee well in all, 
Save such as touched the honour of the king. 
Take back thine hand ! To me it is accursed ! 


Archbishop ! I renounce my fealty, 

Abjure my plighted word, withdraw my homage ! 

And now, absolved from my disloyal oath, 

For England and for England's noble king 

Defy thee, traitor, even to the death ! 


BECKET. 'Tis pity ! Go, de Morville ! Fare thee well ! 

A noble man, but fashioned to the times, 

And of the times a soldier ; rough in speech, 

In manners rude, with something in his heart 

Rings true as gold. He has no doubts, no fears ; 

His watchword and his touchstone are " the king : " 

Oh ! Faith sublime, which thus can judge the world 

By such a simple test. 
DE Luci. My lord, I go : 

May I not bear some message to the king 

Of reconciliation, amity, 

Now or in future ? Must a frenzy part 

Two such as ye ? 
BECKET. Aye ! As a mountain torrent 

Divides two cliffs : The stealthy work of years 

Has worn the ledge that joined us ; though the stream 

Shows but a thread, 'tis there ! Naught but an earthquake 

Can ever fill the rift. 
DE Luci. Farewell, my lord ! 

I cannot be thine enemy ; thy friend 

Alas ! I may not. Henry is my king 

By right divine of nature. 
BECKET. I am more ! 

In grander sovereignty, of nobler state, 

Not chosen by an accident of birth, 

But by a higher right, elect of God. 
DE Luci. Being no clerk, my lord, to reason on't, 

I am the king's man ! Fare thee well, my lord. 
BECKET. Farewell ! (Exit DE Luci.) 

Farewell, England and Englishmen ! 

Perchance for ever ! 'Tis an easy thing 

Returning at set time to say farewell, 

But he who turns his back upon his home 


For ever, lingers long, and being gone 
Is not at once departed ; ev'ry tone 
In nature's gamut thrills his exiled heart 
With sad remembrance. 

Was it wise, or well, 

To sever thus the knot which circumstance 
Had bound about me ? Was it fear or sloth 
Which bade me thus escape the tortuous maze 
By bursting through the hedge ? Sloth it was not : 
Something, may be, of fear. 

Oh, Thomas Becket ! 
Yet hast thou much to learn ! 

May I not take 

A lesson of this soldier, who has dared, 
Resigning all for that he deems the right, 
To bid his wife, his children, starve, to fling 
Back in my face estate and sustenance, 
Outfacing fortune ? 

And then those who clung 
About my skirts in love, though knowing all 
That love a curse to them : while I, the Primate, 
Elect of God, I said, deny my God, 
Avoid the battle, fly. 

Weep, eyes, for shame ! 
Who shuns the wolf, is shepherd but in name. 



SCENE II. (A. D. 1170). The Traitor's field. 

WILLIAM. Who would have thought the king so vast a fool ? 
FITZURSE. Not I for one indeed ; his highness shames 


Oar ev'ry hope. 
WILLIAM. A month ago he swore, 

Nor pope, nor bishop, no ! nor ev'ry curse 

The Church could thunder, should divert his mind 

From Becket's fall, and now 

PITZUESE. Up kicks the beam, 

And Becket rises. 

WILLIAM. See-saw, as you say, 

FJTZURSE. But neither recantation nor regret 

Has patched the truce between them. 
WILLIAM. Not as yet ; 

But follows soon, for Henry, when he mounts 

A novel fancy, plies both whip and spurs 

And gallops it to death. 

FITZDRSE. May this die soon ! 

WILLIAM. Amen to that : For, once this folly falls, 

The king, believe me, sir, will straightway leap 

Into another saddle, whip and spur, 

And so o'er hill and dale, through stones and mud, 

Fly to his starting point. 

God save you, sirs ! 
T., LE B., AND R. And you, my lord. 
TRACT. Sirs, have you heard the news ? 

WILLIAM. Old news indeed. 
RANULPH. And worse for being old, 

Since by so much more time the king's intent 

Is constant to its purpose. 
WILLIAM. So it shall 

The sooner change. 
RANULPH. I think not so, my lord, 

The king has weighty reasons. 
WILLIAM. Reasons ! Which ? 

Show me that this is done of calculation, 

That 'neath this show of friendship and redress 

Is spread a hidden snare, and know me, sir, 

Your debtor ever. 
LE BRETON. Nay ! No springe is here : 

'Tis but an idle wind has blown the king 


West as it blew him east ; comes a new moon 
He shifts another quarter, and so round 
Backing or veering. 

RANULPH. Something more, methinks, 

Than wind has moved the kingly weathercock : 
Though words indeed are wind. 

WILLIAM. What meanest thou ? 

RANULPH. Something I heard anent an interdict, 
Concerted of the primate and the pope. 

TRACY. That is a lusty wind to sway the world. 

WILLIAM. But not the king ! He little fears the Church, 
As little loves her : Ye have seen him all 
At mass or matins, how amongst his hounds 
He restless shifts in's seat, or drowsy yawns 
Drawing his fingers o'er the boarspear's edge, 
Or listless turns the rustling pictured page 
To cheat the preacher's whine, or, happier fate, 
At times he sleeps Ye've seen him start and stare 
As crashed the last Amen : An interdict ! 
Pebbles and peas ! (Enter HUGH DE MORVILLE.) 

DE MORVILLE. Unto the king, my lord ; 

But to the people, lightnings, thunderbolts. 

WILLIAM. The people ? If they fear let them recall 
Their fav'rite Becket. 

DE MORVILLE. This they do, my lord : 

All England shouts for him. 

WILLIAM. Were I the king 

I lent the English but a Norman ear, 
Becket a Norman hand. 

DE MORVILLE. 'Twere ill, my lord. 

WILLIAM. Lo ! Here is one who loves the proud archbishop ! 

DE MORVILLE. I love him not, my lord, nor do I hate him 
But as the king shall will. I am a soldier, 
And being such know naught of policy, , 
Content to yield obedience. 

WILLIAM (aside). A man 

To kill cold-blooded by the king's command, 
To die defending if the king desire, 
But useful to my purpose : Gentle sir, 


The king beneath his seeming kindliness 

Disguises well his hate, since thou hast failed 

To catch an inkling of it. 
DE MORVILLE. Is this so ? 

WILLIAM. Aye ! Is it not, Fitzurse ? 
FITZURSE. But yesterday 

The king and I discoursed alone upon't ; 

" My lord," I said, " hast thou some secret reason " 

" To keep friend Thomas here in Normandy ?" 
DE MORVILLE. What said the king ? 
FITZURSE. " Reason/' he said, " enough ! " 

And told me of his dignity, his wealth, 

The popular love and fifty other things ; 

At which I smiled. 

DE MORVILLE. Scant courtesy, my lord. 

FITZURSE. Good policy ! For this provoked a question, 

And that a fable 

WILLIAM. Let us hear. 

FITZURSE. 'Twas thus, 

Jolm the ploughman had a wife, 

Joan her name, a sorry scold ; 
So exceeding grew the strife, 

Both of them no house could hold. 

" Out /" said John : " I go " said Joan : 

Every yeoman living nigh 
Hears a tale would melt a stone ; 

John had turned her out to die. 

Neither fair nor market-place, 

Where of old Tie bought his gear, 
Now may see John's honest face, 

For the neighbours flout and jeer. 

" Out upon thee, cur /" they cry, 

" With your tale we're well acquaint !" 

Joan the martyr simpers ly ; 
He a devil) she a saint. 


John at last, to end the ill, 

Brought his Joan unwilling liome ; 
There, when she's unruly still, 

Beats her, and forbids her roam. 

DE MORVILLE. Aye ! John and Joan ! I cannot read the 

WILLIAM. Oh, head of proof. [fable. 

FITZURSE. Not read it ? Priestly Joan, 

Archbishop Joan, let's say, has fled from home, 
And royal John's a devil ; better 'twere 
To keep her tongue, now wags in such despite, 
Within the reach of John's right lusty arm. 

DE MORVILLE. But this I know ; the king despatched to 
Such messages of friendship and love, [him 

As make me doubt. 

WILLIAM. A mere pretence, my lord ! 

The corn which, to the yielding lever glued, 
Cheats, cheats, the pecking beak, until the spring 
Flies and the bird is caged. 

DE MORVILLE. 'Tis no fair dealing. 

WILLIAM. In war, my lord, all's fair. 

DE MORVILLE. Or like the king, 

To choose a secret way to win his end. 

WILLIAM. Sir ! Wilt thou judge the king ? 

DE MORVILLE. Nay ! Nay ! Not I ! 

WILLIAM. The king does right in all things ! Let him say 
" 1 order thus," 'tis ordered well ! Let none 
Dare in my hearing doubt it ! I am his brother, 
His honour mine. 

DE MORVILLE. My lord, I doubt thee not ; 

This kindness of the king is then a mask 
To hide a frowning face. 

WILLIAM. No more, my lord. 

It scarcely needs thy rich experience 
To judge what by this man the king must suffer ; 
In name the first, in majesty the second, 
With a divided rule the other shares, 
Nay ! e'en usurps : the mitre and the crown 
As one shall rise, the other needs must fall. 


DB MORVILLE. The king then hates him ? 
WILLIAM. Aye ! As do we all, 

Loving the king. 
DE MORVILLE. My lord, I yield to none 

In true allegiance. 
WILLIAM. Wilt thou join with us 

To crush this traitor ? 
DE MORVILLE. Aye ! with my full heart. 

WILLIAM. Then on some happy day a gallant deed 

DE MORVILLE. A traitor ? Is he ? 

WILLIAM. Doubtest thou ? 


I cannot judge. 
WILLIAM. The king shall judge for thee ! 

Mistrust us as thou wilt : Agree but this, 

That we together, heart and soul, will work 

The king's decree, aye ! even unto death, 

When so he orders. 
DE MORVILLE. . Aye ! to death ! 
ALL. To death ! 

When wills the king. 
DE MORVILLE. Give me the king's command, 

I am with you in all things. 
WILLIAM. In good time 

Thou'lt have it. 
DE MORVILLE. Gentlemen ! my lord ! Farewell. 


WILLIAM. Farewell ! Thou hammer-head, I hold thy handle. 
RANULPH. My lord, why's this ? I trust not much this 

Proud to the finger-tips he prates of honour ; [knight : 

I fear lest he may shy at thine intent 

And so perchance unseat our enterprize. 
WILLIAM. In ev'ry mortal nose is hung a ring ; 

The which you pull, the owner follows close : 

In some 'tis wealth, in others honour, some 

Have named it love, but this man labels his 

"My lord the king commands." 
TRACY. Why need we him ? 

He is not of our company. 


WILLIAM. E'en so, 

And that the wherefore : Something, pardon me, 
We all are damaged in our reputation. 

ALL. My lord ! 

WILLIAM. I set myself among you, sirs. 

You like it not : Then let me say, that fame 
Has rudely used us. Now good character 
Is warmer far than furs to cloak a sin, 
Which needs protection : Having not enough 
Amongst us, pardon me, to veil a lie, 
'Twere well to borrow : Morville hath too much, 
He's awkward honest. 

PITZUESE. Shall we then divide 

The surplus ? 

WILLIAM. Aye ! Tf Becket die, by hands 

The world misjudges, there are silly fools 
Might prate of murder, wrought for private ends ; 
But let the king command, we are the slaves 
Of royal policy. 

TRACY. But will he ? 


He will ! Some sudden rage, some new offence, 
Shall from his hasty lips tear out the words, 
Enough to suit our purpose ; never doubt ! 
And so the deed is done of justice, sirs, 
By sentence of the king ; De Morville witness, 
A very honourable man indeed : 
'Tis wise to keep an honourable friend. 
Trust me for this. 

LE BRETON. And when, my lord, the signal ? 

WILLIAM. Wait in good patience till the time shall serve, 

The king's time, look you ! 

(Enter KING and JOHN OF PAVIA.) 

Welcome, royal brother ! 

KING. Welcome, Sir William ! 

(To JOHN OF PAVIA.) Pass we farther, sir, 
For private speech. 

WILLIAM. My lord, report has grown 

That Becket comes again. 


KING. And if he does 

Shall wine be sour, or wenches hard to win ? 

Trnst me, my brother, keep thy tavern ways 

And live in peace. 
WILLIAM. My liege, these gentlemen 

Are with myself intent to do thee service. 
KING. I thank you, gentlemen, and need you not. 

Farewell ! God bless you ! Give you cleaner lives ! 
WILLIAM (aside). But thou shalt serve us all. 

Come, gentlemen, 

The sun is high, and needs his morning draught, 

Dry lips beget dull thoughts Farewell, my lord. 

(Exeunt omnes except KING and JOHN.) 
KING. It cannot be ! 
JOHN. My lord, pray think again. 

His holiness entreats you give the kiss. 

That which of old 'twixt thee and the archbishop 

Were but a customary greeting, now 

Shall be to all the world a patent sign 

Of amity and reconciliation. 
KING. I loved the man, my lord, and oft have kissed him, 

But never with a hollow heart. 
JOHN. Nor now ! 

All that is past ! 
KING. The thorn is out 

The sting yet rankles. 
JOHN. Common courtesy 

Demands it of thee, and that royal state 

Which like a velvet scabbard to a sword 

Adorns the mightiest. 
KING. No discourtesy 

Bids me refuse the kiss of peace, my lord : 

I could not an I would so many nights 

Has Becket frightened sleep from off my eyes, 

That e'en his name is grown so weird to me, 

I startle at it. 
JOHN. Put away from thee 

Such mem'ry of the night ! A glad new day 

Now dawns for thee and England. 


KING. Ye who dwell 

As 'twere 'neath angels wings, who day by day 
Find strength in pray'r, who hourly mortify 
The restive flesh, can scarcely guess, my lord, 
How hard forgiveness is : How great a pang 
It gives to stop a half-delivered blow, 
And greater yet to throw the sword aside, 
And greet the foeman friend. 

JOHN. The hardest part is done ; 

The blow is checked, the foe is at thy feet ! 
Oh, Henry ! stifle not thy noble heart, 
But give thou mercy as thou hop'st for mercy, 
Full, free, and passing limit. 

KING. Nay ! not yet ! 

It is too soon. 

JOHN. A little sacrifice 

Has little merit : That to which most we cling 
That most is due to heaven. 

KING. Words ! pardon me, 

I spoke unthinking. 

JOHN. I can pardon all, 

Save thy withdrawal from the kiss of peace. 
Shall it not be, (I speak as one of the world,) 
That others, knowing it withheld, shall judge 
That in thine heart must lie some treachery, 
Present or future. 

KING. By God's eyes, not so ! 

I swear my soul has no concealed ill ! 
In ev'ry tittle shall my word be true ; 
Becket shall be in all things yet to come 
Blameless of all is past. My hand I'll give, 
And with my hand my honour, but my lips 
His kiss would blister. 

JOHN. Sir, I will to Becket 

Report as much as profits ; he perchance 
May waive his right, and to the outward sign 
Prefer the inward friendship. 

KING. Tell him more ! 

At my return to England, he shall ask 


And I will yield, the kiss and all things else 
May make him mine. 

JOHN. Good news indeed, my lord. 


KING. (While he speaks the Lords of the Court enter.) 
A little moment and he comes again ! 
Friend Thomas ! Noble Thomas ! Such a man 
As hath not in my double realm his double. 
I warrant me his heart is full as mine : 
Ah me ! We both are weary ! Should he come 
To greet me with that old glad face of his 
I could not take him coldly by the hand : 
Much hath he vexed me, others love me well ; 
But lies there something in the man has pow'r 
To outlive hate, to conquer love, to bid 
Even kings serve him. Should he smile at me 
With that wide honest eye of his on mine, 
Then must I no ! by Heav'n ! I cannot tell : 
The day shall see. 

LEICESTER. My liege, a company 

Comes hither. 

KING. Stand we here to greet. 

LEICESTER. My liege, 

I see them now : 'tis Becket. 

KING. Say, my lord, 

The primate lord archbishop. 

IST LORD. Sets the wind 

So in the sails ? I'll trim my helm and steer 
A novel course. (The King walks up and down). 

(To 2ND LORD.) A most wise man, my lord. 

2ND LORD. Aye, more ! A great man, highly to be prized 
For England's honour. 

DE MORVILLE (to the King.) Of thy grace, my liege ; 
Comes he as friend ? 

KING. Aye ! As the best of friends, 

To all the honour that my hand can give, 
By all the love my inmost heart bestows. 

DE MORVILLE (aside). I am astray : let time unriddle all ! 
Stand we aside, and watch events go by. 


(Enter BECKET, JOHN, HERBERT, GRIMM, and attendants.) 

KING. Thomas ! 

BECKET. My liege! (Kneels ; King raises him). 

KING. At last. (Embraces BECKET.) 

JOHN. The kiss of peace ! 

(BECKET is ill at ease, and half resists the King's embrace. 

Nobles and attendants fall back, leaving KING, BECKET, 

and JOHN.) 

KING. How many years have come and gone since we 
Stood thus together : give me thy hand again, 
That I be sure thou'rt here ! 'twas dreary, Thomas, 
To see thee not. 

BECKET. I joy to see my lord 

In such good seeming. 

JOHN. All the Christian world, 

Which late lay weeping at the Church's feet, 
Welcomes with joy the end of this disunion. 

KING. I ever loved thee, Thomas ! At my worst 
I would not harm thee ; but thy giant strength, 
Like some great island rock, frowned over me, 
As 'gainst thy hardness ev'ry wave of mine 
My love, my hate, my power, my arguments, 
Splashed into frothy foam and moved thee not : 
And hence this trouble came. 

BECKET. Yet once again 

I must of thine indulgence pray a hearing. 

KING. Thomas, speak on ! This is no day to keep 
Betwixt us silence : Tell thy mind upon't, 
And as thou wilt, I certes do thy pleasure. 

BECKET. My lord the king, it is the ancient office 
And proudest duty of the Primate's see, 
To set the royal crown of England's kings 
On each anointed head. Despite of this, 
My lord of York has dared with insolent 
Rebellious hand replace me in the service. 

KING. My lord of York has crowned my son Lord Henry 
It was at my desire. Am I not king, 
And shall I not be master in my realm, 
To make it's usage ? 


BECKET. Ere thou wert a king 

That usage reigned. Usage say I indeed, 
'Tis more, a right I hold from hands long dead : 
And not a jot will I, their heir, abate 
Of that which honoured Canterbury held. 

KING. A right ! It is no right ! The Conqueror 

Was crowned by York ; The Pope himself gave me 
That I should choose the hand to crown my son. 

BECKET. When Canterbury is not, or from death, 
Or from some ill of man's device, then York 
May foster England's Church, but none the less 
Serves he the other present. Never yet 
Has Canterbury yielded ! Never will ! 
Give me mine office, king ! 

JOHN. Noble sirs, 

Ye do endanger peace : may we not find 
Some easy resolution for this problem. 

BECKET. I seek no ill against my lord of York, 
Nor would I strain a hair to low'r his state ; 
Nay ! Inasmuch as he too serves the Church, 
I would enhance his dignity : But this 
Doth blemish not alone my personal honour, 
But that of England's primacy : All else 
I may of conscience do, I am right glad 
To work for York's aggrandisement. 

KING. My lord, 

No more, I pray ! Thou hast a double right, 
To love my son : I gave him to thy hands 
To shape and furnish ; he doth as a scholar 
Love thee his master, as a friend his friend, 
And as a king doth so much honour thee 
That any is thy foe is of that being 
Most hateful to him. 

BECKET. He is such a son 

As needs no praise of mine, and such a prince 
That all men praise him. 

KING. Hear me then, my lord ; 

I, that am king of England, hold the Church 
Of Canterbury first in all the land, 


And in this matter sought I no dishonour 
To her or you ; but since ye are aggrieved, 
And in this question exercised, I vow 
I will in all things give relief and aid, 
Such as may heal her bruised dignity. 

BECKET. That vow do I invoke ; for some there are 
Who being set beneath me, suffragans, 
Have of their pride oppressed me ; so I pray 
That in this matter of- Church discipline, 
I may of my supremacy give answer 
To such as shamed my office. 

KING. I to all 

Who thus have injured us, who thus have striv'n 
To raise a mist of hate between our eyes, 
Will in my own good time find such an answer, 
As their great wrong and treachery deserve. 

BECKET (kneeling). Oh ! Glad am I to live to see this day ! 
My liege and king ! my blessing go with thee, 
As doth my love for ever. 

KING (raising him). Furthermore, 

In full requital to thine outraged Church, 
(As public the atonement as the trespass,) 
I will at my return devise that thou, 
With fuller pomp and grander ceremony, 
Shalt crown my son and daughter king and queen. 
(BECKET kneels and kisses the King's hand.) 

BECKET. Now is the measure of my cup o'erful, 
And sorrow's cloud is melted at the sun 
Of such true clemency. 

KING. Rise ! Rise, my lord ! 

Nothing is now betwixt us. 

Gentlemen ! 

Now in the sight of all assembled here, 
I do restore my lord of Canterbury 
To every fief, to each appurtenance ; 
And farther charge you all, by your respect 
And love for me, to serve him as myself 
With all due honour and obedience. 

BECKKT. May heav'n so bless thee ! Go, ray son, in peace ! 



Live well ! Live gladly ! God be good to thee ! 

(KiNG and BECKET pass up stage talking.) 
JOHN. Evil is passed to-day : as for to-morrow, 
Being so old, I may escape it's sorrow. 



SCENE III. A room -in the Abbey of Bee. 
(The Empress on a couch. A Nun attending.) 

NUN. May I in aught else serve your highness ? 

Go, daughter ! 1 would be alone awhile. 
NUN. The Abbess Mother bade me tender, madam, 

All our poor aid can offer: 'Tis but little 

Compared with royal usage. 
EMPRESS. Daughter mine, 

This to the Mother : Sick, aye ! e'en to death, 

And very weary of this evil world, 

I, that have lived in misery in courts, 

Come to die happy in the house of Heav'n. 
NUN. God give your highness peace ! 
EMPRESS. Amen, my daughter ! 

(Exit Nun.) 
EMPRESS. Ah ! With what other eyes the world is viewed 

When we no more can hope to see it long : 

It is as though we all our lives have been 

As babes, unfit to judge of relative distance ; 

For with what huge proportions glares that now 


Which late at the horizon glimmered weak, 
And how far off, how faint, ho\v small a thing 
Is that great purpose which o'ershadowed all, 
Now less than shadow ! To a toddling child 
A new found toy will fill the total day, 
And evening falls ere sad satiety : 
But coming to full years, when greater thoughts, 
(Only by contrast, great,) fill perfect age, 
Small things can please no longer, toys or men ; 
Something yet more is needed, and so palls 
First one and then another, till the world 
Is empty as a book of riddling jests, 
Of which we know the answers. 

(A knock heard.) Enter ! 

(Enter BECKET.) Thou ? 

Why art thou here ? 

BECKET. Madam, from gratitude. 

EMPRESS. From gratitude ? To me ? 

BECKET. Madam, I am 

As one who starving in a lonely wood, 
Past hope, past daring, finds that while he slept, 
Worn out by weeping, Sorrow's gracious sleep, 
Some hidden hand has brought him sustenance ; 
And with it strength to tread the backward path 
Along the footsteps, till he reach the place 
Which houses her who saved him. 

EMPRESS. Thomas Becket ! 

I, who in pride have dared miscall thee churl, 
And frowned on thine advancement, in the faith 
That noble blood alone made noble men ; 
Now in the withered days of my existence, 
Do with mine inmost heart claim kin with thee, 
(The cousinship of sorrow joins us twain,) 
And as my cousin 

BECKET. Madam ! 

EMPRESS. Bid you welcome ! 

Nay ! Hear me out ! Yet more, I kneeling pray 
Thy blessing, noble Becket. (Tries to kneel.) 

BECKET (raising her.) Madam, I 


EMPRESS. Pass me thy courtesy, give me thy love ! 

Am I so bound by wretched pomp and pride, 

That even at the grave thou'lt call me " Madam !" 
BECKET. My sister in the Church ! Kneel not to me ! 

Both have been wrong, let us together kneel 

To Him who knows not race or lineage. 
EMPRESS. Mine eyes are glad to see thee, holy Father, 

As was my heart to know thy wrongs redressed. 
BECKET. I have no wrongs : Has any striv'n with me, 

E'en to the death ; comes he with open hand 

And open heart to greet me, all my soul 

Shall swear he never wronged me : That is but 

A poor forgiveness which can aught remember 

Of that forgiven. 
EMPRESS. Musing here I sat, 

And 'gainst my will my thoughts, like feathered shafts, 

Flew up the wind to thee : Then at the moment, 

Came there a message from his Holiness 

Anent thy cause, as 'twere a breath from heav'n, 

To guide me thither. 
BECKET. Good and gentle sister, 

Who, spite thine age and thine infirmity, 

Hast from thy cloistered calm above the waste 

Of overwhelming waters brought to us 

The olive branch of peace, 
EMPRESS. Could I do less ? 

Think this : How many men have these weak hands, 

Unarmed but bloody, sacrificed, alas ! 

Before the altar of my pride ? 'Twas little, 

Little indeed, to lift my failing voice 

For peace and harmony. 
BECKET. I have no words 

To thank thee, sister. 
EMPRESS. Let us pass from this ! 

How fares the king ? 
BECKET. So well, I scarce believe, 

To see his ruddy face so freshly gay, 

That six long years have past since last we rode 

Together with the hawks. His eye as bright, 


His step as firm 

EMPRESS. And that hot hasty temper 

As wild as ever. 
BECKET. Half for that I love him ! 

A smouldering fire smokes long : Give me a flame 

Ardent and swift. He who can hate can love, 

And for the quickness of his anger comes 

Forgiveness quicker. 
EMPRESS. Aye ! Too much at times ! 

As to the queen ? 

BECKET. Is with the king at Rouen. 

EMPRESS. I ask not where she is, but what she does. 
BECKET. My life lies little in the braveries 

Of courtly splendour. 
EMPRESS. Hear me, Thomas Becket ! 

Dost know the queen ? 
BECKET. Aye, madam, was I not 

A courtier once ? 
EMPRESS. Mistake me not ! I mean 

Her public folly and her private ill ; 

Working such scandal at the royal court, 

That all men whisper, look askance, and see 

Matter for wagging tongues. Art thou as blind 

As husband Henry ? 
BECKET. Madam, I see nothing ! 

That I may hear I never did regard ; 

For well I know that many in the world 

Prefer e'en lies to silence. 

EMPRESS. Something thou'st heard ! 

BECKET. When any sound, is hateful to my heart, 

Knocks at the porch o' my ears, I shut the door. 
EMPRESS. Thou'lt not deceive me ! Something there must be, 

Or why such monstrous rumours in the wind. 
BECKET. I know this : Eyes and ears both see and hear, 

Not that which is, but that their owners will : 

And he who all his life has looked for evil, 

Finds it where'er he goes, within the palace 
With royal robes bedecked, or in the hut 
Enwrapt in filthy weeds : The world to each 


Is an enlarged copy of himself 

Who sees it : That men speak, is still themselves 

EMPRESS. Idle words ! When goest thou 

To England and thy see ? 
BECKET. In some few days. 

(Trumpets heard.) 
EMPRESS. A trumpet ! listen ! Comes there aught to me 

With such a summons ? 
BECKET. Sister, I will go : 

Whoe'er it be, 'twere well thou wert alone. 
EMPRESS. Thou'lt come again to me ? 
BECKET. Aye ! In an hour. 

(Sound of trumpets. Exit BECKET.) 
EMPRESS. Again ! A royal trumpet ! Hark to it ! 

So blares the blatant wind which fills our lives, 

As loud, and as soon silent. (Enter Nun.) 

NUN. Madam ! I 

EMPRESS. Enter, my daughter ! 

NUN. Madam, at the gate 

A lady seeks your highness. 
EMPRESS. Who is she ? 

NUN. I know not, madam : but she shines as bright, 

With jewelled ornaments and glitt'ring robes, 

As doth our Lady at a festival. 
EMPRESS. One daughter only in this Christian world 

Had come in state to see a dying mother : 

Admit the queen ! 
NUN. The queen ! Alack ! 

But queens are gaudy things. 
EMPRESS. Aye ! Some, my child : (Exit Nun.) 

And wicked things are some, and false are many, 

But few so utterly (Enter QUEEN.) 

QUEEN. How fare you, madam ? 

EMPRESS. But ill, my time is passing. 
QUEEN. Say not so ! 

Ere long at Rouen thou wilt joy with us. 
EMPRESS. Nor there, nor elsewhere ever. 
QUEEN. I have brought 


Such news as needs must win thee from this nest ; 

Or like the mourning dove thou'lt pine away 

For very languor. Fie, what sombre weeds ! 
EMPRESS. The fitter for my person. 
QUEEN. Come away ! 

This cloistered air lacks life, there's poison in't ; 

And this lethargic stillness hath a chill 

To freeze the heart, and savours of the tomb. 
EMPRESS. And like the tomb gives rest. 
QUEEN. Nay, mother mine ; 

Tomorrow little Maud, thy godchild, weds 

Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, 

A very gallant man, and there will be 

Great doings, feastings, sports, and tournaments, 

Where noble knights for love of beauteous dames, 

Shall break spears bravely. 

EMPRESS (aside). She yet loves her toys. 

QUEEN. And there is more : Duke Conan, dead at last, 

Has unto Geoffrey Brittany bequeathed, 

And day by day a crowd of Breton knights, 

Each prouder than the last, comes trooping in, 

Till all the town's ablaze with waving plumes, 

And handsome faces are as common sights 

As birds in summer. 

EMPRESS. What are these to me ? 

QUEEN. Reject this moody dulness, gentle mother, 

And come with me to-day : I had forgot ; 

By universal verdict of the knights, 

I am elected o'er the tournament 

As Queen of Beauty. 
EMPRESS. Pah ! Too much of this ! 

I cannot come ; my age, infirmity, 

Must plead excuse. 

QUEEN. Nay ! No excuse shall serve. 

EMPRESS. Hear then, I will not come ! Must thou, whose age 

Had better taught thee wisdom, flourish thus 

Thy painted face, thy padded symmetry 

Before thy gazing minions ! Get thee gone ! 

Presume not thus to flaunt thy borrowed grace, 


Thy mincing gait, thy studied youthfulness, 
Full in the face of death. 

QUEEN. My mother ! I 

Who can have taught her this ? 

EMPRESS. I know you now : 

Death is a rapid teacher ; many things, 
Which to the eye of health are blurred and dim, 
Are in the weary tossing of the night 
To sickness patent clear. I spare you much, 
For much I know : Yet more I guess and pass : 
Do thou spare me and go ! 

QUEEN. Not till I know 

Whence thou hast learned the occasion of this speech 
Death, sickness, that for girls ! I am a woman, 
And I will know who whispered this to thee. 

EMPRESS. Experience somewhat, somewhat intuition, 
Or by what name you call the second sight 
Which comes by living. 

QUEEN. Intuition ! Pshaw ! 

Thine intuition hath two legs, a tongue, 
A villainous tongue ! Would God I had it here, 
Thine intuition ! Were it e'er so great, 
My dagger levelled it ! Who was the man ? 

EMPRESS. It was no man. 

QUEEN. The woman, then ? 

EMPRESS. Thyself ! 

Thy wand'ring eye, thy too-alluring glances, 
Thine agony to age, thy mock of youth, 
Thy company with men of half thy years, 
Thy weariness of children, those thine own, 
Whoe'er their father 

QUEEN. Ah ! This is too much ! 

EMPRESS. Were not the king as blind as thou art vile, 
He would have seen it. 

QUEEN. Nay ! He loves me not ! 

EMPRESS. For twenty years has any ever loved thee, 
Save for his purposes ? 

QUEEN. Has any loved me ? 



EMPRESS. Stay ! I would not have thee blazon out 

A roll of conquests : That I know, I know, 

Euough and more : Go thou, and let the past 

Die in repentance. 
QUEEN (aside). Will she tell the king ? 

If I should think it ! 
EMPRESS. Go ! I loved thee once, 

Or that I thought was thee. I stand too near 

The bar of death to judge thee. Go ! 
QUEEN (aside}. The king ! 

His rage ! A dungeon ! Death ! She is but weak ; 

A little and then silence ! She may babble 

Even unknowing ! White as my hands may be, 

They have sufficient strength ' I'll do it ! Madam ! 
EMPRESS. Begone ! I weary of you. 
QUEEN. List to me ! 

At my dictation speak ! I swear by God 

EMPRESS. I will not ! I 

QUEEN. Then, curse thee, die ! 

(Rushes at her.) 
EMPRESS. Help ! Help ! 

(Enter BECKET.) 

BECKET. Woman or tigress, back ! 
QUEEN. Thou here ! Ha ! Ha ! 

Her highness' intuition, second sight ! 

Have at thee, liar ! 
BECKET. Lady ! Not too far, 

Lest I forget thy name ! 
QUEEN. My name ! What is't ? 

Have not ye two, thou and this beldame here, 

From off me wrung it, trampled it to ordure ? 

Peace ! Peace ! No words ! Not even blood can wash 

The filth thy covert hand has filched to fling 

From thine own midden. 
EMPRESS. Becket, take her hence ! 

This is too horrible ! Would I were dead, 

Ere came this whirlwind on me. 
BECKET. Madam, go ! 

The Empress swoons. 


QUEEN. Though earth should yawning ope 

To gulf us all, I stir not, till she swear 

EMPRESS. I will not ! 

BECKET. What ? 

QOEEN. To serve no more as conduit 

For thy swift running lies. Now hear me, madam ! 

He who has dared to thus impeach a queen, 

Is of the lowest dregs of London born, 

And he so quick to slander thus a woman, 

Has such a woman loved as I 

BECKET. Speak not of her ! 

QUEEN. Fair Rosamond ! 

BECKET. Peace, fiend incarnate ! Go ! 

QUEEN. Ha ! Have I touched thee ? Hast some softer spot 

Amidst thy purity to make thee man ? 
BECKET. Help ! Help ! The empress dies ! 
QUEEN. Nay ! not so soon ! 

Doth she ? I go ! But mark me, lying lord ; 

If e'er a woman's word had strength to kill 

Thine hours are counted ! (Enter Nuns and attendants.) 
Madam, fare thee well ! 

God give thee better days ! (aside) And few of them ! 

(Exit QUEEN.) 

EMPRESS. Ah ! Is she gone ? 
BECKET. Aye, madam ! 

EMPRESS. Give me ease : 

So ! Lift me up ! I have not long to live. 

Good Becket, leave me not. Where art thou now ? 
BECKET. Here, madam, at thy calling. 
EMPRESS. Is she gone ? 

Thou didst not answer, Becket. 
BECKET. In her speech 

Was so much fact, I could not quickly answer 

To such a wordy tangle, (aside) In good sooth, 

A lie cuts deeply when it's edged with truth. 



SCENE I. (A. D. 1170.) In front of the Church of St. Mary, 
Southward. The houses decorated and the street full of people.) 

(Enter RANULPH and ROBERT DE BKOC in disguise. MATILDA 
walking in the crowd.) 

MATILDA. Good wave ! Good ware ! Open your purses, 

(Sings) The sun is hot, the day is fair [gentles. 

But gentle Thomas needs must die. 

And here are two T know not. 
RANULPH. Save you, lass ! 

What do you sell ? 
MATILDA. Nothing sell I to you. 

Look ! Look ! There's blood on's fingers ! 
IST CITIZEN. Gentlemen, 

She means no harm ! Great sorrow long ago 

Has turned her brain. 
MATILDA. Come, gentles, buy my ware ! 

(Sings) Poor lover, dear lover, why must thou die ? 
RANULPH. These be brave doings, sir ! A gallant welcome 

Have ye of Southwark furnished to my lord. 
2ND CITIZEN. Could we do less, when he is one of us ? 

Yes ! 1, plain Gilbert Arkell, claim akin 

To Thomas Becket. Thus it is you see ; 

One Alfred, ere the Conqueror was come, 

Married Elfgiva, so 

ROBERT. Oh ; rare old man ! 

Better begin at Adam. 


2ND CITIZEN. Nay ! not so ! 

Thus were I kin to thee, for ev'ry knave 
Has Adam for his father. 
BANULPH. Fairly hit ! 

(Aside). Best keep a quiet tongue, or loose thy sword : 
These Londoners, like sable cats, are smooth, 
So you may stroke them straight, but raise their hair 
Across, and sparks shall fly. Pray, gentle sir, 
"Whence comes it that th' Archbishop is so lov'd ? 

MATILDA. (Sings) The holly 's green, the holly 's red, 
And iny true love, alas ! is dead. 

IST CITIZEN. E'en for himself; for he's no coward, sir: 
But stands against our swagg'ring Norman king 
Stiff as a quarter-staff. 

ROBERT. Thou'dst best take care ! 

The king can hear across the sea. 

IST CITIZEN. The king ! 

God bless him, he'll not hurt us ! 'Tis not he 
That sets us grinding teeth, but those he sends, 
A very scurvy, poor and drivelling set, 
To rule in merry England. 

RANULPH. Such as who? 

IST CITIZEN. Oh ! There's a many of them. 

RANDLPH. Tell me one. 

IST CITIZEN. Ranulph de Broc Thou know'st him ? 

RANULPH. Nay, sir ! I 

MATILDA. (Sings) A poor fool, a very fool, 

Would be handle, and is the tool. 

IST CITIZEN. Aye ! He's a wicked one. But hath a brother 
One Robert, is a right-down arrant knave. 

MATILDA. (Sings) So foul a thing, a thing so evil, 

To buy his soul would cheat the devil. 

2ND CITIZEN. He was a priest they say : Too vile for that 
He blossomed to a monk, and was disfrocked : 
And now has cut himself adrift from Holy Church 
To serve his cousin Satan. 

ROBERT. 'Tis too much ! 

Out sword, and at him ! 

RANULPH. Silence, on your life ! 


Let him but shout " Clubs ! Clubs !" and we are lost ; 

For such a crowd of prentices would pour 

From every street, as sent us limping back, 

A sorry pair, to Saltwood. Let's away; 
MATILDA. (Sings) Let owls, who fly by night, 

When day is nigh take flight. 
IST CITIZEN. Gentles ! Ye go not so ! Here is my house ! 

Come ye within, and quaff an honest cup 

To Becket's health ! 
BANDLPH. I pray you pardon us ! 

Our journey's hasty. 
IST CITIZEN. Nay ! You go not so ; 

Here's wine, and mead, and good October ale ; 

Choose at your liking so now after me : 

To Thomas Becket, London citizen, 

God bless him ! (Enter PENDA.) 

ALL. Aye ! God bless him ! 

ROBERT. Ev'ry toast 

Smacks of the wine : I'd drink the devil's health 

In such as this. 
IST CITIZEN. And curse his enemies, 

And crush them thus ! (Breaks his cup.) 
BANULPH AND ROBERT. And curse his enemies ! 

And crush them thus ! 
PENDA. I' faith he's damned himself: 

Good day, Sir Ranulph ! Save your Reverence ! 
IST CITIZEN. Why ! Who are you ? Let's have a look at you ! 
ROBERT. Standoff! (Draius his sword.) 
2ND CITIZEN. Who are ye ? 

ROBERT. Stand aside, I say ! 

IST CITIZEN (to PENDA). Art sure of them ? 
PENDA. As of myself! I served 

At Saltwood overlong. 
IST CITIZEN. Clubs ! Clubs ! 

ROBERT. Give place ! 

Or by our Lady 

IST CITIZEN. Curse you ! Have at you ! 

Ye spawn of Satan ! 
ALL. Clubs! Clubs! Prentices! 


(RANULPH and ROBERT are beaten and driven off, with 

their swords broken, cloaJcs torn, etc.) 

IST CITIZEN. Brave boys, we've trounced them well ; another 
Together all : (Shouts heard.) [ CU P 

God save the lord archbishop ! 
(The shouts draw nearer ; all crowd to see the procession, to 

meet which the Canons advance from the Church.) 
MATILDA. (Sings) Alas ! that I ever was born : 

He was so bright, he was so bright ! 
He told me his love at the morn 

And died at night, and died at night ! 
(Enter BECKET, with WINCHESTER, etc., while the crowd 
throw cloaJcs before him, and press to Iciss his hand.) 
(Shouts.) " God bless the good archbishop ! " 
BECKET. My brother citizens ! Good people all ! 

I had not thought of this : I had not guessed : 
Ye do me too much honour. Bless you all ! 
I am no more archbishop ! See me now 
Just Thomas Becket, one of you, a son 
Of goodly Southwark, glad to greet you all ; 
So glad i' faith, he has no words to tell it, 
And, had he words, so glad he cannot speak, 
For such a trembling in the throat as comes 
To ev'ry wand'rer when his neighbours meet 
To cheer him home. I'll never leave you more, 
Come well or ill ! Go to ! No foolish tears 
Shall stain such happy welcome ! Out upon't ! 
These silly eyes see dimly through their mist, 
Or that is Gilbert. 
2ND CITIZEN. Aye ! my lord, of old 

Tour father's gossip. 

BECKET. Ever friend of mine, 

Since first I rode cock-horse upon thy knee. 
And thou ! I know thee ! 

IST CITIZEN. Geoffrey, good my lord ! 

BECKET. Thou wert a stripling when I saw thee last. 
IST CITIZEN. And thou, my lord, a youth. 
BECKET. So long ago ? 

Even a weary life is quickly past. 


WINCHESTER. Pray you, my lord, to choose my honoured house 

To roof your head to-night. 
BECKET. With thanks, my lord, 

I meet your offer : But 'tis right and due 

That, ere we think of comfort, we should first 

Thank Heav'n that all the perils of the way 

Are safely ended. 

(To a Canon). If our brother will 

Permit us use his church, pass we within : 

For so great happiness as gilds to-day 

Cannot be rightly finished save by prayer. 
(The procession passes into the church. The crowd remains 

MATILDA. My ware ! My ware ! Good people, buy my ware ! 

(Sings) Sadly the evening dies after day, 
Sadly my true love faded away. 

(Enter soldiers, Archbishop of YORK, Bishops of SALISBURY 

JOCELINE. Is this the rabble ? Get you home, you cui'S ! 

Here ! Kennel ! Kennel ! or I have some here 

Will lend the lash. 
IST CITIZEN. We were but come, my lord, 

To greet th' ai'chbishop. 
JOCELINE. So much the worse for thee. 

Two Norman gentlemen are hunted down 

By all you ragged English, and ye claim 

This your excuse " We come to greet a traitor." 
IST CITIZEN. A. traitor ? 
JOCELINE. Oat you pass, nor bandy words ! 

Is this the loyalty of London town 

To mate with him is Henry's enemy ? 
IST CITIZEN. Something we heard of reconciliation, 

Of friendship and forgiveness. 
ROBERT. Out, you hound ! 

What has the king to do with such a thing, 

Save of his clemency ? Are ye to judge ? 
JOCELINK. Begone ! And keep your holiday at home, 

Or some of you shall take cracked heads with you 


And bloody jerkins : Ye, that are citizens, 

I charge you by mine office, that tomorrow 

Ye do attend me at my house and give 

Good bail for good behaviour. 
IST CITIZEN. We will not ! 

Whei*e is thy warrant ? Hast it of the king 

Or of his justices ? 
JOCELINE. Arrest this man ! 

Sweep me the streets ! Drive all these brawlers home ! 
(The citizens are driven out, and soldiers are placed to guard 

the door of the church.} 
(The church-doors open. Enter BECKET.) 
BECKET. What have we here ? Sir Joceline of Louvaine ? 
JOCELINE. Rather of Arundel. 
BECKET. I had forgot 

Thy new-found honour : Would'st thou aught with me ? 

Where are my children ? 
JOCELINE. Children! Tender ones! 

Their infant play hath cost these gentlemen 

Some little pain : Thy babes bear clubs, my lord. 
BECKET. Is't so indeed ? I pray you pardon them. 

Can I in aught repair ? 

ROBERT (aside). Thou shalt in time ! 

BECKET. Much am I grieved that this dissension fell 

On my home-coming. 
JOCELINE. Therefore get thee back ! 

I bear an order from the king lord Henry 

BECKET. Father or son ? 

JOCELINE. The king at Winchester. 

BECKET. The king cloth honour me. 

JOCELINE. Nay, not much honour. 

Hear to the end ! I, Henry, king of England, 

Do of authority to me deputed 

By my most royal father, charge thee, Thomas, 

Primate of England, that thou come not hither : 

And, being well-informed by certain hands, 

That thou hast in intention to proceed 

About thy diocese, I order thee, 

On pain of my displeasure, turn thy face 


To thy cathedral city ; stir not thence, 
Till future orders license thy departure ! 

BECKET. Young Henry wrote this ? 

JOCELINE. Aye ! In loyal speech 

The younger king. 

BECKET (aside). He whom I hold so dear! 

How often in the early happy days 
Laid he his cheek to mine, with such caress 
Was almost womanly : " Dear father Thomas !" 
" When I am king," said he, " I'll stand by thee, 
And none shall touch thee save he risk my spear!" 
With twenty other foolish loving words, 
As " I shall love thee ever," or " Till death 
Thou art my father !" Evil fare the crown 
Which so can canker hearts ! Can kings be men ? 
Or lies there subtle poison in their state 
To curse their each good quality ? My lord ! 
I marvel much 

JOCELINE. But shew obedience ! 

Spare me thy homily, and go thy way, 
Or these shall lead thee. 

BECKET. Force ! Know this, my lord : 

Were ev'ry man thou hast increased to fifty, 
Aye ! to a thousand men, wert thou the king, 
Ye all should fail before my planted foot, 
To move me home. Beware ! The Church hath arms ! 

JOCELINE. Preach if thou wilt, but go ! That is mine errand. 

BECKET. Ungentle Arundel, thou churlish lord, 

Acquaint the king from me, that of set purpose 
I did propose to keep my Christmas feast 

MATILDA. Beware the knife, my lord ! Beware the knife ! 

BECKET. Who is this woman ? Treat her gently, sir ! 

IST SOLDIER. She's but a witch, we'll duck her ! 

BECKET. Touch her not ! 

God hath afflicted her, let man keep silence ! 
Off hands ! And rest thou here in peace. 

MATILDA. (Sings.) A bonny, bonny lord was he, 
A pretty, pretty lady she ! 

But they died, alas ! they died. 



Beware the knife, my lord ! 
BECKET. Grimm, take her hence : 

See to her case ! My lord, 'twas my intent 

To keep my Christmas feast at Canterbury; 

And, for the reverence which I bear the king, 

I will at once return, and there await 

Another message : Pray the messenger 

Have studied manners more. 
JOCELINE. "Tis well, my lord ! 

There is another matter yet ; for here 

My lord of York, my lord of Salisbury, 

And he of London fain would speak with thee. 
BECKET. This is no soldier's question, save so far 

As touches discipline : Stand thou aside ! 

I there obeyed, I here perforce command : 

Speak on ! Thou first, Roger, my lord of York ! 
YORK. My lord of Canterbury, here stand I, 

Archbishop as thyself, and by my oath 

I would not change with thee. What evil wind 

Has blown such proud presumption to thy heart, 

That thou alone defiest all ? My lord, 

I pray your patience ! 
BECKET. I am like to need it : 

Speak on, my lord ! 
YORK. Of my offence to thee, 

Or that thou call'st " offence," I speak not here, 

Nor will I ever to thy judgment bow ; 

But these, thy suffragans, for these I ask, 

What have they done ? Has any witnessed evil ? 

Or have they injured aught except thy pride ? 

Is not forgiveness charged us ; thou and I 

How often have we published out the text, 

And shall we shew, but never lead the way ? 

When thou wert gone, my lord, the Church had peace ; 

Ere thou wert come was peace ; but now we hear 

From ev'ry point the shock and din of war ; 

We weary of you. 
BECKET. And before I go 

Shall fear me ! 


YORK. Out upon such words ! 
I fear you ? Never ! Look you well, my lord, 
Or peradventure he who threatens falls ! 
'Twere well, proud prelate 

BECKET. I have heard enough ! 

Now hear me, York, thou pattern of forgiveness ! 
Has any sued for mercy in such terms 
As these of thine ; has any ever dared 
As thus to mingle curses with his pray'rs ? 
Enough ! No more ! "Pis mine to speak at last. 
Thou hast abased the splendour of thy see 
By petty theft of that thou thought'st unguarded, 
From 'neath thy cope hath stretched a filching hand ; 
And, noble of the Church, hast not disdained 
To strike her root when thou could'st strike unhurt. 
I speak not of thy coward insolence ; 
I say but this ; thou'st shamed the Church which fed, 
Which raised, which throned thee vilest of the vile, 
Thou'st dragged her honour in thy native dust. 

YORK. My lord ! Before these men ? 

BECKET. Before these men ? 

Before the world the impious act was done, 
It is no secret I may spare thee here ; 
In open scorn hast thou usurped my place, 
With open scorn I here chastise thy crime : 
The crown too holy for thy touch, the oil 
Was blessed, nay ! banned by thee, hast thou, usurper, 
Dared to profane : I marvel that a curse 
Blasts not this kingdom for thine evil deed. 

EGBERT (aside). Thou art the curse ! A curse my willing 
Shall soon absolve. [sword 

BECKET. Enough ! My lord, go by ! 

Thou hast thine answer, I another task. 
(To the Bishops) Ye insubordinate, who dared abet 
These wicked doings, hear my charge to you ! 
Bishop of London, thou of Salisbury, 
Thus saith my lord the Pope ; Forinasmuch 
As ye, forgetful of your orders, oaths 
And discipline, have bound yourselves to fools 



And followed folly, come ye not again 

To any meeting of the Christian Church ; 

Put not your hands to meat, your lips to wine, 
LONDON. My lord, your pardon ! 
BECKET. Grovel not to me ! 

Not mine the sentence : Tear your robes from you ; 

Ye are disfro.cked, disowned ; as cursed things 

Creep ye upon the earth, until such time 

As by repentance e'en your sin be purged ; 

Let no man touch you, minister to you 

By word or deed, in sickness or in health ! 

With book and candle hath the Father cursed ; 

Aye ! and ye shall be cursed. Go hence, profane ! 
JOCELINE. The Church hath arms indeed. 
BECKET. To you, my lord, 

I have my promise giv'n : I will return 

With this my company to mine own see. 

Farewell, my lord. (Exeunt BECKET, etc.) 

JOCELINE. Farewell, thou half and half 

Soldier and priest, in all a very devil. 

(Exeunt JOCELINE, etc., except YORK and Bishops.) 
LONDON. Enough of this, my lord, I tremble now 

Before th'exceeding passion of his voice. 
SALISBURY. 'Twere best to yield ; his tongue has iron in't. 
YORK. And thy head gold : Fear not to lose thy see ! 

Stand by the king, and he shall serve you well ; 

But if ye be fainthearted, swerve from him, 

Shall of a surety strip you of your all, 

And leave you beggars. 
LONDON. Beggars are we now : 

Aye, worse ! Are castaways, to all profane, 

By God accursed. 
YORK. A curse on cheerful hearts 

But lightly sits ! Thank Heav'n, my coffers hold 

Eight thousand pounds ! I'll ev'ry penny on't 

Disburse to right this quarrel : Golden arrows 

Shall soon bring down this fellow's soaring pride ; 

Aye ! he himself by this same pride shall fall. 
SALISBURY. I hope, my lord, but cannot see, good end. 


YORK. Nay ! Nay ! Not yet ! At Rouen is good end 
We'll to the king, for he alone can curb 
This vaulting jade : Pass we to Normandy ! 
There is our castle, thence our shafts shall fly ! 

SALISBURY. But Becket to the king is reconciled. 

YORK. No wound is quickly healed is rightly healed ; 
And very little poison swells a scar 
To mortal gangrene : That was done to-day 
Played with a certain art, shall sway the king 
Against his bias : Follow where I lead ; 
To Normandy, my lords, with all good speed ! 



SCENE II. The ante-room of tlte King's chamber, Castle of Bur. 
(Enter the QUEEN from the King's chamber.) 

QUEEN. At last he sleeps : I weary of this watching ! 

WILLIAM. Madam, how fares the king ? 

QUEEN. But ill, my lord, 

For such a fever hath o'ermastered him 
As leaves him little rest, since e'en in sleep 
He tosses this way that way, with his hands 
Clutches as 'twere a sword, and shouts aloud 
"To arms! To arms!" 

WILLIAM. Hath he no reasoning moments ? 

QUEEN. Nay ! When he wakes his mind is so bewrought 


With antic frenzy, that he thinks himself 

One while at sea, or at another cries 

For Becket or some other. 
WILLIAM. Is this so ? 

{Aside) Out of this sickness chance may give occasion 

To aid our purpose. 
QUEEN. The leeches say 

That of this sleep is born some partial hope, 

Since it is calmer, deeper than before, 

That he may gain his reason at his waking. 
WILLIAM. For you I most do wish it, patient lady ; 

To follow through the watches of the night 

The drivellings of delirium, is more dread 

Than aught we soldiers suffer in the field. 
QUEEN. I ? Dost thou think I watch the livelong night, 

And see the sad gray streaks of early dawn 

Gleam through the casement ? Nay ! Not I, my lord ! 

I have not strength, I am too frail a thing 

So to imperil life. 
WILLIAM (aside). Yet till the morn 

Will feast admiring eyes or lead the dance, 

And weary never, though the youngest pale. 
QUEEN. I have no grace to hold a sick man's cup, 

To smoothe his pillow, give him sigh for sigh, 

With "There! There! Restthee!" Pshaw! another 

Burns in my veins than finds such labour sweet, [blood 
WILLIAM. Madam, hast heard the news ? 
QUEEN. Not I Speak on ! 

Of whom ? 

WILLIAM. Of Becket. 

QUEEN. He ! I thought him gone. 

WILLIAM. Aye ! Gone he is, but being gone is grown 

More insolent than being here he dared. 
QUEEN. As that be possible. 
WILLIAM. Aye ! Here he spoke 

Treason indeed, but only yet in bud ; 

In England now his words have blossomed, fruited, 

To red-ripe villainy. 
QUEEN. How hast thou heard ? 


WILLIAM. Robert de Broc is here, Sir Ranulph's brother, 
QUEEN. Is here ? His brother ? Call him quick to me ! 

(Exit WILLIAM.) 

QUEEN. Something of fate is here : I know not how, 
But sure I am that of this present news 
Will grow some further wonder : Comes there not 
As 'twere a message sometimes to the mind, 
To note beginnings ere we guess their ends. 


WILLIAM. Here is the gentleman will tell you all. 

ROBERT. Madam, a letter 

QUEEN. From de Broc ? And thou ? 

Art wounded ? 

ROBERT. Aye ! My brother too is hurt. 

QUEEN. Stay ! Let me read ! (Reads letter.) 

What's this ? A villainous plot 

To raise all London 'gainst the royal power, 

To seize the younger king, to levy war ? 

Treason, my lords ! All this shall to the king ! 
WILLIAM. Ah ! as I wished. 
QUEEN (aside). And Ranulph wounded. Sir! 

Art thou much hurt ? Thy brother ? 
ROBERT. As we stood 

Together, back to back, the raging crowd 

Pressed on us hardly, but we drove them off, 

QUEEN. Sir Ranulph ? 

ROBERT. Suffers much : Is like to die. 

QUEEN. To die ! Be silent, heart ! My lords, I pray 

Your wisest counsel. 
WILLIAM. Madam, were't not well 

The king should learn this last of Becket's doings. 
QUEEN. Becket ! 'twas he ? 

ROBERT. My brother wrote it not ? 

QUEEN. I had not read, (aside) I sought for other words. 
WILLIAM. I know not, lady, if thy deep affection 

May favour Becket, 
QUEEN. I ! Affection ? Favour ? 

Standing so near the throne, my lord, can I 


Befriend his treason ? 
WILLIAM. Madam, as you say : 

But I and these my friends have private cause, 

Beyond the duty which we owe the king, 

To wish that Becket may 

QUEEN. Well ! 

WILLIAM. Sin no more. 

QUEEN. Oh craven thought which dare not live in speech ! 

Learn courage of a woman ! He shall die ! 
WILLIAM. Much as I said, and so shall sin no more. 

Now, madam, can your woman's wit devise 

The how, the when ? 
QUEEN. My lord, I have no hand 

To do such deed ; a little thrust of mine 

With all good will were impotent, but thou ? 

Or thou ? (They shake flieir heads.) 

I would I were a man to show 

How much a man may venture ! 
WILLIAM. By your grace, 

These men fear nothing, nothing but the law. 
QUEEN (aside). Repute then lies. 
WILLIAM. 'Tis wiser to speak out : 

Here are the hands, the will, aye ! e'en the weapons, 

But, like a ship on stocks, the enterpize, 

Is balanced on the edge of pro and con, 

Lacks just a little push to slide it off. 
QUEEN. I have no fear : be't mine to launch your bark ! 
(They shake their heads.) 

Is't not enough ? What then ? 
ALL. The king. 

QUEEN. The king ? 

Ha ! Will it -serve ? I have the plan, my lord. 
WILLIAM. Said I not always, women are the first 

To find the germ of action, urging it 

From thought to purpose, thence to full achievement. 
QUEEN. I have a plan : I know not : It may fail, 

But well-attempted hath much promise in't. 

Wait here awhile ! But I will to the king, 

And with some artifice of tears and cries 


Will at his waking greet him. 

WILLIAM. Will not this 

Recall the fever ? 

QUEEN. Aye ! His throbbing brain, 

Half-dazed by stupor, yet shall poorly judge 
Whither my purpose tends ; then come ye in, 
Sir Robert with you ! tell him all the tale, 
With what embellishment your fancy lends, 
And, e'er the sequence of his reason comes, 
His hot-brained haste of anger 

WILLIAM. Excellent ! 

QUEEN. Will sweep away restraint and burst all bounds ; 
So, as a mountain torrent overfull 
Tears rocks and trees unheeding in its course, 
Shall from his puissant place and high estate 
Beat Becket to his level. 

WILLIAM. Lower yet, 

Or steel has lost it's edge. 

QUEEN. The rest to you ! 

Fail not in yours, as mine I'll surely do. 
(Exit QUEEN into chamber.) 

WILLIAM. Save that it is belied in holy writ 
(As churchmen read it) from experience 
And somewhat strange adventures, I'd dare swear 
Satan a woman : Naught so devilish, 
(And I'm not innocent,) ere brewed itself 
(Touching his head) Within this teeming nest of curioug 
As that this woman fashions. Gentlemen ! [whims, 
Ha ! What is that ? 

KING (within). Treason ! A sword ! A sword ! 

WILLIAM. The philtre works. 

KING (within). Have at ye traitors all ! 

WILLIAM. Pass we within ! One moment ! Listen, sirs, 
Are we not sworn that at the king's command 
We do his will ? When thus I move my hand, 
And at the least occasion I will move it, 
Be sure that the king himself has said so much 
As well may serve our purpose : Then to horse ! 
Ride for your lives ! And e'er a change can be, 


Make of that purpose fact ! 

QUEEN (within). My lords ! My lords ! 

(Exeunt omnes into King's chamber.') 



SCENE III. The king's cliamber. 

(The KING seated, his dress disordered, with a sword in his hand 
The QUEEN DE MORVILLE supporting the KINO. Enter 
LEICESTER, CORNWALL, and Lords by another door a leech with 
the KING. LEICESTER tries to take the sword from the KING.) 

DE MORVILLE. My lord, 'twere best to leave it, lest the king 

Wake to new fury. 
LEICESTER. Aye ! but he may wound 

Someone who loves him. 
DE MORVILLE. Nay ! He is not mad, 

But only for the time miswrought by fear ; 

And at his waking may perchance be sound. 
LEICESTER. God grant it be so ! 
QUEEN. But now, like one possessed, 

He raging strode about the chamber's space, 

Hither and thither striking with the edge, 

As though he swept amid the armed battle, 

Hard pressed by foemen. 
LEECH. "Tis but in the course 

Of such distempers, that the heated brain 

Should picture wonders to the eyes aghast 

At that we cannot see, which is to him 

As though he saw it. 

KING. Is de Morville here ? 

DE MORVILLE. Here ! At thy side, my liege. 


LEECH. The king is saved ! 

Something, we know not what, e'en we who trace 

The wonder workings of life's mystery, 

Has loosed his brain : My lord, canst thou sit up ? 
KING. Aye, at an effort's cost ! Ah, Leicester, welcome ! 

And Cornwall here : My lords, I thank you all ! 

I have been somewhat ailing as it seems ; 

Is it not so, my queen ? 
QUEEN. My lord, we feared the worst, 

The very worst. 
KINO. There is no worst ; the king 

Dies not, but is translated. Were I gone 

Henry the Second found his natural heir 

In the third Henry. 

WILLIAM. It might be so, my lord. 

KING. It might ! God's death, how might ? It should be so ! 

Is any traitor here ? 

WILLIAM. None here, my liege. 

KING. Or elsewhere in my realm ? 
WILLIAM. I cannot say. 

KING. What mean these riddles ? Speak outright, my lord ! 
WILLIAM. I have no certain knowledge ; I but speak 

By hearsay and report of one who saw. 
KING. Of one who saw ? My lord, what saw he ? Tush ! 

Eye-witnesses would crowd the world for gold. 
WILLIAM. No gold, my lord, has this received, but wounds ! 
KING. Wounds ! Give me grace ! Dare any strike a man, 

And I not know it ? 
LEICESTER. Pardon me, my liege ! 

Something I heard of this, but in despite 

Of mine own will, spake not of it to thee. 
KING. But that I know thee faithful in the least 

As in the greatest matters, I were fain 

To chide thee, Leicester. 
LEICESTEB. As I came, my liege, 

Hot-foot with news, the leech entreated me, 

Adjured me by the oath of my allegiance, 

To give thee rest, to spare thy weary brain 

The test of passion. 


KING. Passion ? 

LEECH. Aye, my liege ! 

'Twere wiser, if Sir William will, to pass 
This question, may be trifling to the state, 
Which in thy present health perchance shall breed 
Such fermentation in thy 

KING. Silence, sir ! 

A king hath ever health, can give no space 
For cautious thought of this may ease his ill, 
Or that redouble. He who wears a crown 
Hath eyes for all, and ears, and hands to strike, 
And eyes, ears, hands, have never ease or rest, 
Until men say of him " God rest his soul !" 
Speak on, Sir William ! 

WILLIAM. Rather hear, my lord, 

His tale who seeing suffered : He is here, 
Robert de Broc. 

KING. I know thee not : Hast thou 

A brother, Ranulph ? 

ROBERT. Aye, my gracious liege. 

KING. Enough ! I know him : Speak ! 

ROBERT. I pray my lord 

To read this letter, writ by one he loves, 
Sir Joceline 

KING. Arundel ? 

ROBERT. None else, my liege. (Gives letter.) 

KING (reading'). Young Henry Winchester The citizens 
Of London Southwark was it there ? 

ROBERT. It was ! 

KING. Ha ! Becket ! Strange it is, in ev'ry phrase, 
Whether I hear or read, that name doth meet me ! 
How many years hath " Becket," hour by hour, 
Haunted my dreams by night, my thoughts by day, 
Until at last 'tis grown as dread to me, 
As is some black hobgoblin to a child, 
Who learns from fear obedience : What the news 
Which came to thee, my lord ? 

LEICESTER. My liege, 'twas writ, 

That Becket, in despite of admonition, 


Aye ! e'en of orders, had in armed state 

Marched in procession unto Southwark, there 

Was well received by many citizens, 

Some of renown, ; that, being bid disperse, 

The mob stood fast, opposing clubs to swords, 

WILLIAM. Whereat this gentleman was wounded, sire, 

His brother killed, or very sorely hurt. 
KING. 'Twere well to probe this wound : How say you, sir ; 

That Becket stirred the people ? 
ROBERT. Aye, my liege. 

With very bitter words. 

WILLIAM (aside to ROBERT). Against the king. 

ROBERT. Against the king. 
KINO. And thou, who tellest this, 

What, who art thou ? 
ROBERT. A gentleman. 

KING. By what ? 

Birth or thine own begetting ? Hast no words ? 

What wert thou ere thou grewest gentleman ? 

Speak, sirrah, speak ! 

ROBERT. I once have been a priest. 

KING. And wert disfrocked ; I guessed it : Brother mine, 

I'd warn thee choose a fitter messenger : 

Is such as this to give account to kings 

Of that archbishops do ? Out, out, thou cur ! 

This quarry is too high for such as thou. 

LEICESTER. But Joceline's letter 

KING. Joceline meaneth well ; 

But hath an eye, which, like this cunning glass, 

Distorts, enlarges, till the veriest nit 

Soars like a dragon. 
WILLIAM. Of your grace, my lord, 

There is yet more. 
KING. Of him ? I'll hear it not ! 

Thy friend hath evil favour, and his face 

Belies him strangely if he be not vile. 

Go ! Get him forth, I care not how : By whip, 

If words shall fail ! (Exit ROBERT.) 

WILLIAM (to QUEEN). By misadventure, madam, 


Our bark is stranded. 
QUEEN. Let me take the helm : 

Stand thou to aid me ! By your leave, my lord, 

This Becket hath in many things done ill ; 

For openly, we hear, he hath refused 

To swear allegiance. 
KING. When ? 

QUEEN. As first he landed. 

KING. Nothing I heard of this. 
QUEEN. My lord was sick, 

And bitter news is ever sickness' bane. 
KING. Thou art his foe. 
QUEEN. My lord, I am thy queen, 

And by my duty am no friend to any 

Who loves thee, serves thee not. 
KING. Great thanks indeed 

Are due for such good news. Say on, my queen ! 
QUEEN. Becket with evil mind and base intent 

Hath of a surety, oft, in divers places, 

Spoken disdainfully of thee and thine. 
KING. Of thee ? 
QUEEN. Of me and others. Lift his voice 

Against the so-called luxury and pomp 

Which decks my court, and styled it, as I hear, 

A devil's den. 
KING. He hath some right to speak ; 

He, who by daily sacrifice of self, 

Hath so uplift himself o'er all the world, 

That what we others misname purity, 

Is stained to him. 
QUEEN. To him, my lord ! To him ? 

It is not meet I tell you : Ask of these 

What life is that of Becket. 
WILLIAM. Here, my lord, 

I may not speak of such, but all men know 

With what constrained hypocrisy he turns 

His better side without. 
KING. Enough of this ! 

I weary of the man. Give me to drink ! 


A sudden faintness 

LEECH. Pray you, go, my lords ! 

His highness tires. 
(Exeunt omnes except KING, LEECH, and DE MORVILLE.) 

KING. The very name of Becket 

Is used by all, as 'twere a public goad 
To prick my haste : Has any ought to ask, 
He thinks to recommend his urgent purpose 
By some sly word of Becket. Could they know 
How my gorge rises at the sound of it, 
Whether 'tis Becket blest, or Becket damned, 
They would avoid it, as a mortal sin, 
And then perchance were rest. 
(All rush in.) 

LEICESTER. My liege ! My liege ! 

A wondrous, terrible, and sadd'ning sight 
Creeps to your presence ! Comes my lord of York 
With two his brethren bishops swathed in sables, 
As though accursed by God and shunned by man. 

KING. Is this from Becket's hand ? 

LEICESTER. It is my liege. 

KING. I knew it well ! Beshrew me, as it seems, 
The sun shines Becket, and the angry wind 
Howls Becket's name amid the battlements, 
Until the very air we others breathe 
Is Becket's only. 

LEECH. By your grace, my lord, 

Dismiss this question. 

KING. Sir, I am a leech, 

Even as thou art, more 'tis thine to watch 
O'er one poor body, mine it is to guard 
A kingdom's health : I'm strong indeed, 
Since as it seems this news hath physic in't, 
Or poison irritant. Go, call the bishops ! 

My lords ! In truth, I dare not call you welcome: 
That you must speak, speak out ! 

YORK. My lord the king ! 

I only of the three can ope my lips ; 


These others, London he, and Salisbury 

The second penitent, are interdicted 

From fire and water, excommunicate, 

And none for fear of like infliction dare 

Receive them, touch them, or have speech with them. 
KING. I know the lips have cursed you : Ne'er again 

Shall my lips meet them. Becket is the man ! 
YORK. My lord, with all respect I speak of him, 

Since he with unrestrained and open licence 

Doth of the realm possess the secular arm : 

My lord of Canterbury, with full title, 

(For less I dare not call him,) did this act. 
KING. Am I not king ? Dare any save myself 

Give audience, judge, condemn ? Here is indeed 

A pestilent priest ! 
YORK. Ungrateful for the past. 

My lord the primate, of thy royal mercy 

Alas ! unmindful, hath such sentence laid 

On all who by thine order were concerned 

In that, so-called, unholy festival 

Which crowned Lord Henry king : 

These hath he judged 

KING. By every saint in Christendom I swear, 

That judgment is reversed ! Am I to stand 

As 'twere an usher in the royal court, 

To hear the verdict when the cause is done ? 
YORK. Nay ! Said I judged ? Tis more : He has condemned. 

So much my duty to the Church commands 

I tell my lord, but loyalty yet more : 

For Canterbury moves with armed strength 

Through all the length and breadth of England's isle, 

Seizing a castle here, a fortress there : 

That so, encircled by their solid fence, 

He may in future smile at thy displeasure, 

Opposing to thy wrath their battlements. 
KING. Now, by the eyes of God, 'twas he himself, 

The arch arch-devil, who the first advised 

To hold all castles in the royal hand, 

Lest, as he said, stone walls make stubborn hearts. 


No stone so hard is quarried from the earth, 

As shall avail to shield his treachery ! 

But ye, my lords, to your great detriment, 

Have suffered much for me : I thank you much. 
YORK. We, gracious king, fear not to suffer ill, 

So we but serve thy cause : yet in good truth, 

A very evil day has dawned on us, 

And peering through the future, we espy 

Clouds and thick darkness only. He who rules 

England and England's Church 

KING. 'Fore God, my lord, 

Peace, or my heart will burst ! " Who rules," indeed ! 

As I do live, this head, is now so high, 

Shall bow, shall cringe, for mercy at my feet ! 

I am with you, my lord ! If any flinch, 

Or fail his uttermost against this man, 

He is a traitor. 
WILLIAM. Traitor he the first, 

Who thus makes traitors. 
QUEEN. Traitor to my son, 

As unto thee, my lord, since he has dared 

By blasphemous contention to annul, 

And would reverse, the sacred blessing giv'n 

To Henry at his crowning. 
KING. When was man 

So sore beset ? Is there no rest, no peace ? 
WILLIAM. What peace is possible while Becket lives ? 
YORK. My lord, I pray thee, for this condemnation 

Make no reprisal ! That which is we bear 

KING. Bear ! By God's eyes ! Ye bear it as ye choose ! 

But not so I ! Is any doomed to ill 

Concerning Henry's crown, I am the first : 

And I will be among you, cursed or blessed ! 
YORK. I do beseech thee, patience ! All may mend. 

This is an evil hour, but we may learn 

From patience later wisdom : let it pass, 

Till outraged Heaven toll this upstart's knell ! 
KING. What shall I do, my lord ? What wouldst thou have ? 

Am I to sit, and watch my dignity 



Shrivel before the fire of Becket's pride 

To ashes light as air ? 
YORK. 'Tis not for me 

To proffer counsel : of my heart I pray, 

Beseech thee, patience ! These great lords and earls 

Must of their duty point thy forward course. 
KING. Speak, Leicester. 
LEICESTER. Dear my lord, of olden time 

Have I befriended Becket, but be sure, 

That since he fled the kingdom and thy favour, 

We have no fellowship or confidence, 

But are divided ever. 
WILLIAM. As I heard 

In passing Rome, a Pope, the head of the Church, 

For his ungodly pride and insolence, 

Was of the Emp'ror slain. 
LONDON. Oh king ! My lord ! 

Hear not such evil words ! In such a cause 

The very dumb find voice : Oh ! put away 

This dread temptation ! 
QUEEN. Henry, art thou king : 

Or must we go to Paris, should we seek 

A royal hand to rule ? 
KING. Oh ! give me peace ! 

I am distraught with all this noisy strife : 

Others may rest a fevered aching head, 

But I ! Never ! 
QUEEN. Never ! while Becket breathes ! 

Becket hath torn down thy tranquillity 

To deck his royal state. 
KING. By Heaven ! Royal ! 

He, who first crept into my court a beggar, 

Lame horse and ragged rider, now may dare 

Deride me, swaggers on my throne ; the thrall, 

Who durst not when he came have kissed my foot ! 

And ye 

LEICESTER. My lord, we serve thee with all zeal. 

KING. Your zeal ! A rag ! When I am swept aside 

By this bold hustling churchman, who derides 


My favour, tramples down my total realm, 
And to my face dishonours me 

LEICESTER. My lord ! 

I pray thee, patience ! 

KING. Patience ! Tis for you 

To wish me patient, you who see me burn 
And freeze yourselves : I made you all you are, 
And yet not one will aid me ! Gentle sirs ! 
If patience must be learnt, ye are my school. 

LEICESTER. My lord, we suffer with thee. 

KING. Thankless cowards ! 

God's death, I suffocate ! Of all of you, 
Ye varlets, curse you ! Ye who eat my bread, 
Who serve me in your words ; is there not one 
Will strike a blow to free me ? Water ! Water ! 
(The KING faints. WILLIAM makes a sign and the knights 
pass out. Exeunt WILLIAM and QUEEN.) 

KING (recovering). De Morville ! 

LEICESTER. Is gone, my lord. 

KING. Gone ! Where ? 

LEICESTER. I know not. 

KING. Go thou quick, recall him here ! 

(Exit an Usher.) 

Upraise me, Leicester so My lords, the strength 
Which hath of old sustained me, is become 
Frail as a gossamer : but in despite 
Of this accursed fever, I must speak. 
And you shall act. 

LEICESTER. As shall your Highness please. 

KING. This Becket hath, ye hear, within my realm 
Usurped a tyrannous sway, has dared suspend 
And excommunicate these holy men, 
Has threatened e'en my son ; as Legate, holds 
New power from the Pope, new privilege 
For fresh extortion : Tell them, Leicester ! Ah ! 
Let me lie down ! 

LEICESTER. My lords, the king demands 

Your counsel in this crisis : As for me, 
I do advise that some at once be sent 



In the king's name to curb this restless spirit. 
CORNWALL. Nay ! Such as he are only good to hang ! 

Give me the order, or but give me leave, 

And this new year shall bring new peace to us. 
KING. Tush, Cornwall ; Thou dost speak as of a dog : 

This is no common soul, who being gone, 

The world is unaware that he has been : 

I would not harm the man, but bridle him 

To mine own purpose. 
LEICESTER. It were well, my liege, 

To send some messenger, a trusty man, 

Such as de Mandeville, to speak with Becket, 

If he hear reason. 
KING. Aye ! So let it be ; 

De Morville with him. (Enter Usher.) 

USHER. He is gone, my liege ! 

KING. G-one ! How ? When ? Where ? 
USHER. To England : As I passed 

Into the castle yard he spurred his horse 

Across the drawbridge, shouting as he rode, 

" Death to all traitors ! God preserve the king !" 
KING. De Morville gone ! 
USHER. And not alone, my lord : 

William de Tracy, Reginald Fitzurse, 

And Breton Robert, as the warder saith, 

Are on their separate ways departed all, 

Within the hour. 

KING. What may this mean, my lord ? 

LEICESTER. Save Hugh de Morville, these are desp'rate men, 

Swift to shed blood ; and this so sudden going 

Savours to me of murder. 

KING. Murder ! How ? 

LEICESTER. In such impatient words as 'scaped thy lips, 

Have they their warrant. 
KING. What ? Thou thinkest then 

Danger in this to Becket ? 
LEICESTER. Aye ! as surely 

As doth a whistling arrow in the air 

Betoken death to him on whom it falls. 


KING. To horse at once ! I ride with you ! 
LEECH. My lord ! 

KING. I had forgot ! I cannot ; but my spirit 

Shall make you laggards ! Fly to England, sirs ! 
Five hundred marks to him who first shall cross 
The cursed channel ! Spare nor horse nor gold ! 
Lay me the knaves in prison ! Here's your warrant ! 
Take this ! and this ! (Giving signet.) 

All men in England know them ; 
Bide for your lives ! My life is on your speed ! 

(Exeunt Lords, except LEICESTER.) 
Is this indeed the end ? I loved the man ! 
And, by the eyes of God, I love him still ! 
The little ill he did me is forgotten : 
Oh ! Save him ! Save him ! 

Becket, pardon me ! 
It was not in my heart ! 

Ye saints, protect him ! 

I danced upon his knee : I kissed his lips : 
E'en as a boy, my lord ! I could not kill him ! 
It is not true ! 

Oh ! God in Heav'n, take all, 
My crown, my life, but save him ! 

What ? Who spoke ? 
No answer ! Nothing ! 

Must it be my fate 

Always to do the right too late ! Too late ! 



SCENE I. (A. D. 1170). Room in Saltwood Castle. 
(Enter ROBEET DE BBOC in riding dresa.) 

ROBERT. Quick ! Bring me wine ! And thou, go tell my 
That I am come ! Give me that cushion, sir ! [brother 
I think there never was so rough a road 
As that from Sandwich : never, I will swear, 
Rode one so weary on it. (Enter RANULPH.) 

RANULPH. Robert ! Here ! 

ROBEET. Aye ! With good news. 

RANULPH. Such news of late is rare. 

ROBERT. Now, as I look at thee, I see thy face, 
Most like a withered pear, is crabbed and lined, 
As though the devil himself had pinched it up. 

RANULPH. As well the devil : Becket hath resumed 
From Henry's hands the lordship of this castle, 
And we, like fledgling sparrows, from our nest 
Are by this cuckoo driv'n. 

ROBERT. Ha ! Ha ! 

RANULPH. And more ; 

Anent an error of some lads of mine, 
Who drank a little wine which Becket prized, 
And being chided, all unused to words, 
Gave blows in answer, he must needs proclaim 
Myself in -Church as cursed. 

ROBERT. Say you so ? 

Then prithee, brother mine, sit farther off, 
Lest the contagion pass. 


EANULPH. No fear for thee : 

For both of us, if Becket's word have pow'r, 
Are duly sent with book and bell and candle 
To deep damnation. 

ROBERT. Then, if I am damned, 

I'll do the devil's work ! Cheer up, my brother, 
There is an end to this ! The king hath charged 
Some four of us to right the earlier wrong 
Anent the bishops. (Enter DE TRACY.) 

Welcome here, de Tracy ! 

DE TRACT, Where are the others ? 

ROBERT. Hast not seen them ? 

DE TRACT. Nay ! 

Not since we parted in the castle yard, 
To find each one his single road to Saltwood. 

ROBERT. E'en if they come not we are hands enough 
To do the deed. 

RANULPH. What deed ? 

ROBERT. To silence Becket. 

RANULPH. What ? Murder ? 

ROBERT. Murder ! Tush ! Call you that 

Which is the secret justice of the king ? [murder, 

But hist ! here comes another. (Enter DE MORVILLE.) 

DE TRACT. Greet him well ! 

He bears as 'twere to us the royal signet, 
That patent mark that we in Henry's name 
Do that we do. God save thee, sir ! 

DE MORVILLE. And thee ! 

RANULPH. Here's wine, my lord ! 

DE MORVILLE. I thank thee. 

ROBERT. Here we be, 

Four stalwart men : what if the others fail ! 

DE TRACT. Are we enough ? Becket hath armed strength, 
Sufficient as 'twas said to move the realm ; 
We have but few. 

RANULPH. He fewer, as I know :* 

Five knights alone were with him at the first, 
These hath he now dismissed. 

DE MORVILLE. 'Twas told the king 


He had an army. 
ROBERT. Cowled : of monks, my lord. 

DE MORVILLE. What ! Then 

ROBERT. We lied ! and if we lied, what 

It served a noble purpose, and the king [then ? 

Was willingly deceived. (Enter FITZURSE.) 

Another comes : 

All hail, Fitzurse ! Our tale will soon be full. 
DE MORVILLE. 'Tis the king's will, therein must lie my faith ! 

Tet am I loath in such companionship 

To set the battle forward : but that I know, 

From the king's lips, this fellow Becket traitor, 

I would not soil my knighthood with such knaves. 
FITZURSE (aside) . Best have a care ! De Morville looks askance 

We cannot spare him, since he serves us all 

As some certificate of honour. Sirs ! 

Let us discuss this matter. (Enter LE BRETON.) 

LE BRETON. Gentlemen ! 

Good even all ! Am I the last to come ? 

Yet pressed I onward with a bloody spur. 
FITZURSE. The last, but not too late. Let us decide 

Tomorrow's work ! De Morville, of us all 

Thou hast precedence by thy name and rank. 
DE MORVILLE. I council nothing : that my lord the king 

Doth of his prudence will, is mine to do : 

I am among you, 'tis enough ! (aside) For me 

Too much by far ! 
ROBEBT. Hear, gentles, all of you ! 

This is a pretty songster ! 
FITZURSE. Silence, sir ! 

Or at thy peril speak ! If so, my lord, 

I will adventure all to serve the cause : 

Will you that in this matter I be chief ? 
ALL. Yes ! Yes ! Fitzurse ! 
FITZURSE. Then thus my counsel riins : 

Let us to-morrow at the earliest dawn, 

Demand in Henry's name from all the shire 

Their utmost aid ; so armed and so escorted, 

Let us to Becket's palace ; meet him there, 


Confront him face to face ; if he shall yield 

That the king ask, 'tis well : If not 

ROBERT. If not ! 

'Fore God ! If not, my lords ! I wear a blade 

Shall teach shall teach A cock that will not crow, 

Must lose his spurs ! Good lack ! a silly thing ! 

A cock and crows not. (To DE MORVILLE.) 
DE MORVILLE. Out, thou drunken hound ! 

Keep a clean tongue ! (Strikes Mm.) 
FITZURSE , Well served ! 

DE MORVILLE. Are we come here 

To listen to the ravings of a sot ? 

To me this reeks too much of secret murder, 

Planned in a nest of cut-throats such as he. 
ALL. Cut-throats ! 
FITZURSE. I pray you patience all ! My lord, 

This is no murder, least of all is secret : 

For openly we meet my lord archbishop, 

And openly we pray him that he yield 

Obedience to the king : If he be then 

Stiffnecked and obstinate, we lay the man 

In some safe custody till conies the king. 
DE MORVILLE. So far am I with you. 
FITZURSE (aside.') So far must we, 

We, who would farther go, pretend to bow 

Before the stubborn humour of this knight. 
LE BRETON. What will Lord William say if he escape ? 
FITZURSE. Escape ! He cannot ! Some too petulant word, 

Some blow too hasty, needs must bring the end : 

And then de Morville, in that he consents 

Unto this first, hath in the last a share. 
DE MORVILLE. Oh, thou good sword ! which served my father 

Sleep thou within thy scabbard, lest a stain, [well, 

Begotten in such revels, cling to thee 

Closer than rust, and curse thee with my name ! 
ROBERT. A cock ! and crows not ! 

(DE MORVILLE rushes at 1dm.') 

LE BRETON. Sir ! The man is drunk ! 

DK MORVILLE. Drunk or bedeviled ! Give me way to him ! 


(All rise and half draw their swords against DE MORVILLE. 
FITZURSE steps between tliem). 

FITZURSE. Put up your swords ! We serve the king to-day, 
And may not draw a blade in other quarrel. 
Rise we betimes, my lords ; and ride around 
Throughout the country, calling to our aid 
Ev'ry king's man ! Part we in friendship, sirs ! 
Since that is done by one is done by all. 
(Exeunt all except DE MORVILLE.) 

DE MORVILLE. In friendship ! I ! with these ? As well to 
Me claim a cousinship or closer kin, [bid 

With ev'ry gallows knave who slits a throat, 
And swaggers all besworded, with the air 
Of one has conquered kingdoms ! And this scum, 
This vilest refuse of the lower court, 
Hath of a right companionship with me, 
Since all are sworn to do the royal will ; 
Who serves a king must oft serve honour ill. 



SCENE II. Beclcefs Chamber The Palace, Canterbury. 
(BECKET seated, near him HERBERT DE BOSHAM and two others.) 

BECKET. Therefore go ye unto the king of France, 
And bear him many greetings, bid him know 
That in all things it is not well with me, 
But is not worse : Unto my lord of Sens 
Carry this packet ; tell my lord from me 
All that I have disclosed : This to the Pope 


Anent the bishops. Fare you well, my sons ! 
HERBERT. Oh, father, let me stay beside thee here ! 

I cannot go in fear. 
BECKET. Fear not, my son : 

He who has placed me here can guard me here ! 

Herbert ! My friend ! If it should chance that never, 

Never in all thy life, we meet again, 

Remember this ; I love thee as myself, 

More than myself do trust thee. Go now ! Go ! 
HERBERT. Farewell, my lord ! My words are dumb : my heart 

Beats in such broken measure that my breath 

Fails me to speak : Farewell, my lord ! 
BECKET. Farewell ! 

(Exeunt HERBERT and others.) 
BECKET. There goes the truest heart in Christendom, 

Set to one purpose, fixed from any wind 

Of fashion or advantage ! Life hath been 

But evil, yet in evil there is good, 

Seeing such friendship lives in man for man : 

To know a real friend in this sad world 

Is like a spring of water in the desert, 

And gives a beauty to the barren waste, 

Which it by nature has not. (A knock heard.') 

Who is there ? 
(Enter ROSAMOND.) 
BECKET. What ? Rosamond ? 
ROSAMOND. Nay ! Sister Magdalen : 

The other is forgotten. 
BECKET. Whence art thou ? 

From Godstowe ? 
ROSAMOND. Nay, my lord ! But I am come 

To speak not of myself. There's danger here ! 
BECKET. Danger ? For whom ? 
ROSAMOND. For thee, my lord ! In haste 

I came to warn thee. 

BECKET. 'Tis too late, my daughter. 

ROSAMOND. Nay, not too late ! As through the crowded 

Which yesterday were silent, I have passed, [streets, 

Fierce bearded men were swarming to and fro, 


And summoned ev'ry soldier to his arms. 
BECKET. These are but threats, my daughter. 
ROSAMOND. Hear me out ! 

Here have they fixed their rendezvous. 
BECKET. What ? Here ? 

ROSAMOND. Here ! At the palace ! Since the citizens 

Delayed to arm, is made a proclamation 

In the king's name, that none, upon his peril, 

Presume to stir or move from out his house, 

Whate'er may happen. 
BECKET. Who are these, who thus 

Dare to disturb the city ? 
ROSAMOND. The de Brocs 

Alone I know, but others are with them ; 

A score or so of evil-visaged men. 
BECKETS. All soldiers to a nun are evil-visaged, 

As unto children ev'ry man's a giant. 
ROSAMOND. My lord, thou bid'st me to my shame remind, 

I was not always thus : Mine eyes have seen 

Good men, brave men, and villains most of these. 

I am no girl to frighten with a feather. 
BECKET. I am no monk, to shiver at a sword ; 

Let these men come, if 'tis with me their pleasure. 
ROSAMOND. It is with thee ! Amid the blasphemy [words 

Which should have scorched their tongues, I heard the 

"Archbishop! Becket! Death! The king's command;" 

And one of Canterbury, as I came, 

Told me that some from France had journeyed hither 

To do thee evil. 
BECKET. That shall be, shall be ! 

I will not move a finger to preserve 

My weary life. 

ROSAMOND. For us, who love you, fly ! 

BECKET. Has he, is placed to guard a perilous post, 

No love that longs for him, no home that wails 

To bid him welcome yet, should he draw back, 

How would men name him ? 
ROSAMOND. Father, hear me out ! 

A thousand men may die and no one know ; 


But thou, should evil como to thee, art lost 

To Christendom, to England, to the Church. 
BECKET. We, while we live, o'ervalue overmuch 

Our little worth : No man has ever breathed, 

But, being gone, unlikely though it seemed, 

He is replaced ere he is well forgotten. 

The world has scanty time to choose its leaders, 

It takes them as they are. 
ROSAMOND. My lord ! My father ! 

Nothing I know of this : But these, thy flock, 

How wilt thou leave them ! 

BECKET. I will never leave them ! 

ROSAMOND. But if these kill thee ? 
BECKET. Then am I to all 

A more enduring ensign ; since my death 

Shall shew them, than a century of life, 

More faith, more hope, more confidence in good. 
ROSAMOND. Thou wilt not fly ? 
BECKET. I will not ! 

ROSAMOND. Father dear ! 

By all the memories of bygone years ; 

By all the love of little Rosamond 

Who prattled on thy knee ; by that respect, 

More high, more deep than love, which bade me know 

How mighty, how stupendous among men 

Thy greatness towered ; by thy goodness past ; 

By thine exceeding tenderness to me, 

To me, the sinner ; by the hope has blossomed 

Within my heart by thee ; oh, father, father ! 

Fly, ere it be too late ! 
BECKET. My most dear daughter ! 

Nay ! Weep not ! Weep not ! Lest I weep with thee ! 

My hour is come : I know it : I am ready. 
ROSAMOND. Thou wilt not fly ? At least give blow for blow ; 

Summon thy household, arm thy bravest knights, 

Set sword to sword ! 
BECKET. I am no soldier now. 

My life hath not for me so great a charm 

That I would buy it by another's death ; 


A death, perchance, lamented. 

ROSAMOND. Wilt not thou 

Be mourned through all broad England ? 

BECKBT. For awhile, 

A little while, and then be clean forgotten : 
A people mourns not long : when one is dead, 
The little home in which the gap is made, 
That is his real tomb ; where day by day 
His absence stings, as strikes the empty hour 
Which once was full with promise of his coming, 
For ever blighted. 

ROSAMOND. I shall mourn for thee. 

BECKBT. - Aye ! Thou and twenty others : for the mass, 
The foolish noisy pomp of my entombing 
Alone shall mark my death : Enough of this ! 
For all thy love I thank thee, dearest daughter ; 
The brightest mem'ries of my life are thine, 
Sweetest of all and best of womankind. 
Go ! Go ! Were women all like thee, the world 
Held better men. 

ROSAMOND. My father ! I ? A sinner ? 

BECKET. If such as thou we dare to call a sinner, 
What are we others ? Devils ! Daughter, go ! 
I must be calm, for much remains to do. 

ROSAMOND. Farewell, my father ! Oh, my more than father ! 
Farewell ! Farewell ! (Exit ROSAMOND.) 

BECKET. Farewell, an empty word 

Uttered by empty hearts, from those we love 
Hath in its compass such a special sadness, 
As chills the heart like death : Farewell for ever ! 
How many men this day do envy me, 
This pomp, these silly robes, my useless pow'r, 
And I would give it all, and gladly give it, 
For just one hour of such true happiness, 
As finds the crook-kneed ploughman, when he crawls 
Leg-weary homeward, homeward ! to the kiss 
Of little lips which love him, to the smile 
Which greets the clicking latch, the creaking door : 
No home, no love, was mine in all my life, 


And I, who lonely climbed this giddy height, 

Alone must face the darkness of the night. 

( A knock heard) Come in ! 

Clerics, Monks, &c., and FITZNIGEL.) 
GRIMM. My lord, it is the wonted hour, 

When we converse with thee. 
BECKET (aside.) Then tears, go by ! 

What captain falters, as he scales the breach 

Above the foremost soldier ? Ah ! St. Albans ! 

'Tis a good wind that brings thee. 
ST. ALBANS. Nay, my lord ! 

'Twas a good horse. 

BECKET. Perchance he had good wind. 

GRIMM. I joy, my lord, to hear thee speak so well ; 

As heartily, as cheerfully, as ever. 
BECKET. My son, a man who goeth to his Master, 

Hath a good right to gladness. 
FITZNIGEL. Dear my lord ! 

I have a present offer from the king 

To give me service : 'Tis to my advantage ; 

And of thy grace I pray thee, yield consent 

That I may quit thee. 
BECKET. Go, if so thou wilt ! 

Unwilling service hath all evil in't. 
FITZNIGEL. Unwilling ! Nay, my lord ! 
BECKET. Ungracious then ! 

A place unvalued is a place ill filled. 
FITZNIGEL. I am not all ungrateful, good my lord. 
BECKET. Ungrateful ! Said I so ? Thy mouth condemns, 

As doth thy conscience judge thee. Go in peace ! 

What is the hour ? Can I reach Sandwich yet 

Ere night. 

GRIMM. With ease, my lord ; it is but four o' the clock. 

BECKET. Nay ! as in all God's will be done in me ! 

Thomas will wait ; what God shall offer him, 

That will he meet here, in the Church he rules. 
GRIMM. What mean'st thou, father ? 


BECKET. Scarce I know, my son. 

Yet, reading ere the dawn, of him who died, 
A martyr, my precursor in the see, 
Holy Saint Elphage, came there over me 
A sudden thought, perchance of heav'n, that soon 
His shrine might see another martyrdom. 

GRIMM. My lord ! Not so ! The trouble is well ended. 

BECKET. My friend, mistake me not ! As of another 
I judge my case : The king is not content, 
And his dear son, my only hope on earth, 
Loves me no more. 

GRIMM. How can this be, my lord ? 

BECKET. Well ! Well enough ! I know, alas ! too well 
Where tends this matter. Go thou, dear my son, 
And pray for me at home : I in my Church 
Will hold such feast as God provides for me. 

FITZNIGEL. There stand without, my lord, four noble knights 
Of the king's household, would have speech with thee. 

BECKET. Let them come in. 

(Exit FITZNIGEL. As BECKET speaks, enter four knights 
and the DE BROCS, without swords, but with armour 
under their cloaks, who all seat themselves behind 


(To JOHN OF SALISBURY). At Wrotham is a priest, 
One William ; he hath lately in a dream 
Been visited by saints, who bade him show, 
By such and certain signs, of privity 
To me alone, that many holy relics 
Were of a surety laid in such a place : 
This all was true ; I charge thee, by thy love, 
See that this priest, a poor man and a humble, 
Receive his due in grant or benefice. 

(Turns and sees the knights.) 
God save you all ! De Tracy, welcome here ! 

FITZURSE (after a pause) . God help thee ! 

(A long silence FITZURSE continues.) 

We are come to thee to-day, 
As messengers from him who o'er the sea 


Ruleth all England : Say ! Is it thy will 

That we speak privately, or shall we tell 

Our embassy within the ears of all ? 
BECKET. 'Tis as ye will. 

FITZDRSE. Nay ! Rather as thou wilt. 

BECKET. I am all yours, my lord. 
FITZURSE. 'Twere wiser then, 

That matters of such import be not classed 

With common gossip, on which hungry ears 

May batten at their pleasure. 
BECKET (to Clerks, etc.) Go, my sons : 

Await my coming ! Set the door ajar, 

That all may see. 

(Exeunt Clerks, etc. A long pause.) 
ROBERT (to LE BRETON). If thou art one with me, 

Here is the end. 

LE BRETON. We have no arms. 

ROBERT. No eyes ! 

The crozier stands beside him ; with a blow 

The king were king. 
FITZURSE. The matter first at hand 

Is touching those, the bishop suffragans, 

Whom thou in thine o'erbearing hateful pride, 

Hast dared to curse : Thus speaks the king to thee ; 

Absolve these men, or at thy peril 

BECKET. Stay ! 

These are not things to speak in privacy. 

JRecall my clerks ! (Enter Clerks, etc.) 

Now may you in this presence 

Declare the royal will. 
FITZURSE. If so thou choosest, 

These men and all the world may hear our message. 

My lord the king hath further umbrage ta'en, 

That thou to whom he lately gave forgiveness, 

Hast marched an armed force in treas'nous guise 

Amongst his cities, raised unruly mobs 

Against the royal peace, and still refusest 

T' affirm the crowning of the younger king. 

Betake thee then at once to Winchester, 



And do thy duty to thy lord and ours. 
BECKET. What shall I do ? 
FITZURSE. Thou shouldest of the right 

Be better judge than we. 
BECKET. If I did know, 

I would not say I know not : I believe 

That in all things, as ever, I have done 

Mine utmost duty. 
FITZURSE. Nay ! By God, not so ! 

Much hast thou left undone, yet more remains 

111 done to be reversed. The king commands 

That thou shalt hasten to the younger king, 

Abjure thy treason and amendment swear, 

And at his hands renew thy fealty. 
BECKET. Where is my treason ? Why my fealty ? 
FITZURSE. Thomas, thou knowest well ! Do not we all 

Do homage for our holdings to the king ? 
BECKET. For that I hold I sure will do my duty ; 

But will as surely never in my life 

Swear any oath again ; for oaths breed curses 

Until the whole earth trembles. 
FITZURSE. Now we know 

The measure of thy treason ! Plainly, sir, 

The king doth in his wisdom straightly order 

That thou absolve the bishops. 
BECKET. That I bind, 

That may I loose : But this is not of me. 
FITZURSE. Of thee or not, through thee we know 'twas done. 
BECKET. His Holiness, the Pope, hath of his wisdom 

Declared them cursed ; I, I hide it not, 

Consent that thus my honour he defend : 

Yet from my love for them, not of my duty, 

I will absolve them, if they bow to him 

And own his judgment. 
DE MORVILLE. Spake there ever man 

So proudly ? Can'st thou dare, in his despite 

Who made thee all thou art, to parley thus ? 
BECKET. The king hath nothing made me ! That he gave, 

As ye do tell me, now he takes away. 


DE MORVILLE. And that is 

BECKET Full permission to redress, 

All that was done against me in the past, 

To judge these bishops for their vile offence, 

To sentence them 

FITZURSE. Thou liest in thy throat ! 

What ! Will ye say that our most trusty king 

Hath dealt so treach'rously in this respect ; 

That those were present at Lord Henry's crowning 

Are by his leave to suffer, as they came 

At his command ? He never thought of it,! 

How darest thou affirm such treachery, 

So foul, so unexampled, of the king ? 
BECKET. I speak of nothing save of public note ; 

Our meeting, our forgiveness, was no secret : 

Archbishops, bishops, many noble lords, 

And thou thyself, Sir Reginald Fitzurse, 

Know all I say is true. 
FITZURSE. I know it not ! 

Nothing I knew, or heard of it ere now ! 
BECKET. Yet doth God know it : I am sure of thee, 

That thou wast there. 
FITZURSE. T heard it not, by God ! 

Must we, the king's liegemen, confute thy lies 

Against the royal honour ? Foul it is, 

And treasonous in act, to thus accuse 

The king of treason ! We no more can bear it, 

And, by God's wounds, we will not ! 
ALL We will not ! 

DE TRACT. This quarrel is too old, 'twere well it die ! 
GRIMM. My lord, I pray thee speak in privity ! 
BECKET. That can avail us nothing : What they ask 

I cannot, nay, I must not yield to any. 
FITZURSE. From whom dost hold thy see ? 
BECKET. My lord, from God 

In all things spiritual ; from the king 

Its temporal rights. 
FITZURSE. Then wilt thou dare deny 

That all is from the king ? 



BECKET. That is the king's, 

Unto the king give I : But that is God's, 
Unto God only. 

DE MORVILLB. Curse this priestly prate ! 

Are you, ye tonsured mob, bereft of reason, 
That so ye shame the honour of the king ? 

BECKET. The honour of the king is to do right : 
But I, since I have landed in this realm, 
Have suffered, though I bore the king's safe-conduct, 
Threats, losses, insults ; let him succour me ! 

DE MORVILLE. If the king's men have injured you or yours, 
His is the hand to punish : Tell't to him ; 
But dare not of thine own too great presumption, 
Loose the Church dogs on them ! 

BECKET. Thy head is high, 

Sir Hugh de Morville ! and thy tongue is proud ! 
Should any venture aught against the Church, 
Were he the noblest of you all, the Church 
Will at her time condemn him ! I await 
No man's permission ere I mete out justice. 

FITZURSE. By God ! Thou threat'nest overmuch. 

ALL. Threats! Threats! 

(All rising and crowding round BECKET.) 

ROBERT. Priest ! Wilt thou curse the kingdom ? 

LE BRETON. He shall not, 

And God so save me ! 

DE TRACY. Too many ere today 

Hath he undone by curses ! 

FITZURSE. Thomas Becket ! 

We warn thee, at the peril of thy life 
Such words are spoken ! In King Henry's name, 
Aye, in God's name 

BECKET. God is my shield, my lord. 

I know you come designing me to death, 
But I fear nothing : Threats and angry words 
Fall from the armour of my higher mind. 

ROBERT. Shall swords be blunted so ? 

BECKET. If all the swords 

That England holds were hanging o'er my head, 


And at a breath might fall, not all their terror 
Should aught avail to move me from my post. 
In life, till death, I bear the sword of God, 
Almighty justice. 

ROBERT. Shall it guard thine head ? 

BECKET. That is as God shall will : But foot to foot 
I meet you in the battle of the Lord, 
And you shall find me faithful to the Cross, 
Living or dead. 

IST MONK. 'Twere wiser to give ground 

And fly, my lord. 

BECKET. Not 1 1 A timid priest 

I once have fled ; I blush to tell my shame : 
Now am I here by order of the Pope, 
And here I stay : I turn my back no more. 

FITZURSE. Be warned ! A bloody deed is quickly done. 

BECKET. But, being bloody, stains the conscience ever. 
If I in peace may fill my priestly office 
"Tis well for me ; if not, God's will be done ! 

DE MORVILLE. The mercy of the king is infinite, 
As are his orders just : Come thou with us 
And bow thy stubborn knees before his feet, 
And of his mercy he may spare thee yet. 

BECKET. Prate not to me of kings ! Am I a slave 
To kiss the crown because it is a crown ? 
The gold hath little honour, nor the steel, 
Save as the wearer be. 

FITZURSE. Thou traitor priest ! 

Wilt thou miscall the king ? By ev'ry hair 
Upon my head, I swear we part not so ! 

BECKET. How dost thou dare to threaten me, who here, 
Here in my house, Archbishop, am thy lord ? 
Down on your knees, ye traitors ! Ye have sworn 
Between my hands all fealty and truth : 
Kneel, vassals ! Grovel in the dust for shame, 
And beg for pity ! 

DE MORVILLE. Pity ! Not from thee ! 

Curst be the lips that vowed respect for thee, 
And blighted be the land is held of thee ! 


I am the king's ! 

ALL. We are the king's ! 

DE MOEVILLE. 'Gainst all, 

But most 'gainst thee, I take my stand by him. 
FITZURSE. My lords, it is an easy thing to threaten ; 

We can do more : Come all with me ! 

(To the Servants and Clerks.) And you, 

Subjects and liegemen of the king, we charge 

To quit this man ! (No one moves.) 

And further do command, 

That ye do hold him in safe custody, 

And at the king's desire produce him straight. 
BECKET. It needs no iron hand to keep me here ; 

I shall not fly ! No ! Not for any king, 

Or any living man. Go where you will, 

Come when you will, you find me here, my lords. 

Sir Hugh de Morville, yet one word with thee. 

(As the Knights go out, ROBERT seizes FITZNIGEL.) 
ROBERT. Come thou with us ! 

FITZNIGEL. My lord, they force me out ! 

BECKET. This is their might, is born of Satan's pow'r : 

I pray you loose him ! Loose him, gentlemen ! 

He is no priest. (Eiteunt Knights.) 

IST MONK. My lord, 'tis marvellous, 

Thou wilt not hear a word of any man : 

What need could be that thy great dignity 

Should yet more anger them ? 

BECKET. What should I do ? 

2ND MONK. 'Twere better to have chosen milder counsel 

And softer answer ; at thy wrath they joy, 

Seeking to find occasion in thy speech, 

Or some direct excuse for that they will. 
BECKET. Counsel I have : All that I ought to do 

I know full well. 
IST MONK. To Heav'n, my lord, I pray 

To make that counsel wise. 
BECK ET. If wise or not, 

I care but little. All in turn must die : 

Am I a dastard, that the fear of death 


Should teach ray later hours to fail in justice ? 

For God, and for the honour of His Church, 

I go more readily to meet my death 

Than those shall come to kill me. 
2ND MONK. Say you so? 

We who are weaker dai'e not thus decide : 

Sinners arc we, not ready for the grave. 

Of all are here not one, but thou alone, 

Hath any haste for death. 

BECKET. God's will be done ! 

SERVANT (rushing in.) My lord ! They arm ! They arm ! 
BECKET. What matter ? Arm ? 

E'en let them arm. 

IST MONK. Fly to the Church, my lord ! 

BECKET. I will await them here. 
ALL. Fly ! Fly, my lord ! 

BECKET. Ye timid coward monks ! Are we not here 

As surely shielded ? 
2ND MONK. To the Church, my lord ! 

It is the hour of vespers. 
BECKET. Let us go ! 

(They crowd round him, and are hurrying him off, when he 

Where is my cross. (One bears it lefore him.) 

Do all things in due order ! 
(Exeunt omnes.) 




SCENE III. Canterbury Cathedral. 

(Vespers are being sung. Two boys rush in shouting " The swords ! 

The swords ! " Cries heard without " In the king's name !" The 

music ceases. The monks come down from the choir. Enter BECKET, 

half carried, half pushed.) 

1ST MONK. Come in, my father! Here are wicked doings. 
BECKET. Wicked they are ; but fear not, I am here. 
IST MONK. Let us together suffer, and so pass 

Together unto glory ! Leave us not ! 

Console us by thy presence ! 
(Shouts of " The King ! The King's men /" with shrieking 

of ivomen.) 
BECKET. Fear ye not ! 

Have ye yet chanted vespers ? 
IST MONK. Nay, my lord ! 

Ere yet we finished came these dreadful cries, 

And stilled our singing. 

BECKET. Go ! Complete the office ! 

(They hesitate.) 

Go to your places, or I enter not ! (People rush in.) 

What do these people fear ? 
IST MAN. My lord, the cloister 

Swarms with a crowd of angry armed men. 
BECKET. I will go out to them. 
IST MONK. Nay ! Nay, my lord ! 

Do not so rashly ! Rather come with us 

Into the sanctuary : it may be, 

That e'en these bloodstained soldiers may respect 

It's sanctity. 
BECKET. Our God is ev'rywhere ! 

Men bear within their hearts a sanctuary, 


Or find no one place holy. 
(A knocking heard at the door. The monks try to bar it.) 

Off, ye cowards ! 
Let those blind wretches rage ! 

(They still try to lar the door.) 

Desist, I say ! 

By virtue of obedience, I command 
Ye do unbar the door ! The house of God 
Is not kept fast with iron bolts and bars, 
As is a castle : He who owns can guard. 
(They draw him towards the choir. He breaks away from 

them, unbars the door, and opens it.) 
Come, let my people in ! 

Come in ! Come in ! 

(The people rush in, the soldiers following, shouting and shrieking.) 
(BECKET passes up the Church to the Choir with GRIMM and 

two others, who urge him on.) 
BECKET. Loose me and go ! Ye have no part in this ; 

As God shall will let Him dispose of me. 
FITZUBSE (rushes in). This way to me, king's men. 

(Two of those with BECKET fly, dropping the cross, which 
GRIMM takes up, and holds by BECKET. The other 

Knights rush in.) 

FITZURSE (to the people). Ye ! Stand ye fast ! 

LE BRETON. Where is the traitor Thomas ? 
FITZORSE (to a man) . Where is he ? 

Where is my lord archbishop ? 
BECKET (coming down) . Here am I ! 

No traitor, but archbishop, priest of God. 
ROBERT (striking him with the flat of his sioord). 

Fly, or thou diest ! 

BECKET. Never will I fly. 

(DE MORVILLE stands apart keeping back the people, the others 

press round BECKET.) 

LE BRETON. Wilt thou absolve the bishops ? 
BECKET. That I said 

But now, I say again, and I will do 
No more for any. Reginald Fitzurse, 
Much have I done for thee in many things ; 

Art thon in arms against me ? 
FITZURSE. As thou seesfc : 

Thou traitor ! 

BECKET. Do with me as ye shall please ; 

I am prepared to die : but as for these, 
These my poor people, touch them not, I pray ! 
FITZURSE (seizing him by his dress}. 

Away with thee ! I hold thee prisoner. 

(BECKET snatches away his dress.) 
BECKET. Do here whate'er ye will ! 

(They try to drag him away. He flings FITZURSE to the 

ground. The people and monies are driven out by 

the soldiers.) 

Nay ! Touch me not ! 
Fitzurse, you are my man, and owe to me 
Homage and fealty. 

FITZURSE. I owe thee nothing 

Against the king. 

Strike ! Strike ! 
(DE TRACY makes a blow at BECKET, but strikes GRIMM, who 


BECKET. God's will be done ! 

To Thee, Lord, do I commend my spirit. 

(FITZURSE beats him to his knees.) 
1 am ready to die. 

(Falls as FITZURSE strikes again.) 
LE BRETON. Take that for love 

Of my lord William. (Strikes and breaks his sword.) 

FITZURSE. Now let us off, my lords ! 

The traitor's dead : He'll rise no moi'e again. 
(Exeunt Knights shouting " For the King ! The King ! 

The King's men!") 

(Silence, as their shoitts die in the distance. The monks 

creep back one by one, and stand round the body. From a 

corner comes ROSAMOND, and kneels in prayer. As the 

curtain falls, all kneel in absolute silence.) 




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